Chapter 5: Project Delivery and the Project Management Life Cycle

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Clearly, the ability to manage and deliver information technology projects is key to the success of any IT organization. Although project delivery may take second place to the time, effort, and resources devoted to service delivery, the IT team's performance on projects, in many respects, defines IT's overall status within the enterprise. If projects are managed well and delivered as promised, the IT organization builds credibility and hence the support and resources to take on an expanded role within the business. If it falters in these efforts, it loses the credibility and political capital essential to enabling a strategic role for IT within the enterprise. In short, if IT management aspires to a true partnership with the business side of the house, they must demonstrate serious competence in managing large, complex, impactful assignments.

Projects succeed when they are well aligned with enterprise goals, objective, and well managed. The underlying focus of project management as a process is all about managing risk. Indeed, when one considers all of the processes associated with project management, including scope and commitment management, project planning and budgeting, business requirements gathering, issue tracking, change control, quality assurance, and release management, one sees that these efforts are about limiting the risks of project failure. These precautions are necessary because, unlike routine, predictable, and ongoing service delivery tasks, IT projects encompass work that is unique, sometimes unpredictable, and time boxed. By mitigating risk and introducing rigor to the process, project management strives to make projects more assured and consistent in their outcomes.

Project success is easily measured. Project delivery must occur on schedule, within budget, and in keeping with the customer's requirements and expectations. This sounds marvelously simple. Unfortunately, the reality for many IT projects is not as simple or as happy a story. It is difficult for even the best and brightest IT teams to satisfy their customers consistently in this regard. Does this mean that the project management process has failed us or that IT teams are inherently deficient? I doubt it. But past performance does suggest that most IT organizations face serious challenges in delivering projects satisfactorily.

When problems arise, business colleagues may be befuddled by seeming confusion within the ranks of their IT colleagues. Given all the project work undertaken by the typical IT organization, they assume that IT managers have in hand a formula for repeatable success in this discipline. Little do they realize that there is no philosopher's stone available to help IT professionals through this dilemma. On the other hand, there are enough successful IT implementations to suggest that some of our colleagues have developed repeatable processes to limit project risk and to obtain favorable outcomes. Those IT organizations that do stand out have one thing in common: a rigorous and disciplined methodology for scoping, planning, managing, and reporting on their IT projects. Although many other organizations face the same challenges, few have had the opportunity to invest in the development and documentation of a proven project management tool set. Typically, they have also lacked a center of excellence, such as a PMO, that might refine their processes and ensure overall team compliance with the best industry practices.

To aid these colleagues, one can point to such excellent institutions as the Project Management Institute, [1] that are dedicated to the development of certified project management (for IT and other disciplines) and a veritable plethora of printed self-help material. [2] Much of this work is well conceived and highly focused, addressing the entire project management life cycle or its key aspects. All too often, neglect of some component of project life cycle delivery spells doom for the effort. The PMO champions adherence to such a disciplined methodology, sometimes referred to as a project engineering framework. Exhibit 1 succinctly captures the dimensions of this formal approach.

Exhibit 1: The Project Management Life Cycle. (For an electronic version of the development life cycle graphic see chpt5~/~project management life cycle~graphic. For a hardcopy version of this tool see Appendix E.)

start example

end example

This graphic identifies all the stages of project management, including commitment (COM), analysis (ANA), design (DES), infrastructure readiness (INF), development (DEV), certification (CER), launch and release (L&R), and sunset (SUN). It also depicts the process as a series of life cycle events, which aptly conveys the nature of the undertaking — from gestation through birth, development, launch, and finally to sunset. Many books address the project management life cycle as a whole, consider some aspect of it (like design, development or testing), or look at project management from a particular angle, such as implementing a Web-services or an enterprise planning resource system solution. The life cycle model will serve as the organizing principle for the bulk of this chapter.

It is beyond the scope of this book to summarize the vast array of viewpoints advocating good project management practices. Instead, I offer a set of experiences that collectively afford the reader a framework and methodology for thinking about project management in its various dimensions. My objective is to allow the reader to reflect on my practices and to compare them with his or her own. Adaptable tools and techniques will set the reader on the road of self-examination and continuous improvement. As you discover the particular needs and weaknesses of your own IT organization, you may then turn to more specialized texts and advice to fill any gaps in my narrative.

This chapter introduces a comprehensive framework for the design and delivery of IT projects. Beyond this model, special attention is paid to two of the most common pitfalls in IT project execution:

  • Initial project scoping

  • Ongoing customer expectation management and project reporting

When IT projects come up short, more often than not these failures are due either to inadequate up-front scoping and commitment management by the project team or to serious miscommunication among stakeholders throughout the project life cycle. As always in this book, this chapter is built upon field-tested methods and tools. Whatever the scope and nature of the reader's own project management woes, these pages offer a series of applied examples that will prove useful in the self-assessment of in-house IT team practices. Adapt these to the particular requirements of your business.

[1]See the PMI Web site for details concerning training programs and institute publications:

[2]The literature on project management is vast. Here are a few recent works of interest: Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 2000 Edition (Newtown Square, PA: PMI, 2000); Ron Black, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Project Management with Microsoft Project 2000 (New York: QUE Press, 2000); Joseph Philips, IT Project Management: On Track from Start to Finish (New York: McGraw Hill/Osborne Media, 2002); Richard Murch, Project Management Best Practices for IT Professionals (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000). See the Selected Readings section in Appendix K for additional recommendations.

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The Hands-On Project Office(c) Guaranteeing ROI and On-Time Delivery
E-Commerce Security: Advice from Experts (IT Solutions series)
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 132 © 2008-2017.
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