1.9. Frequently Asked Questions
The following Frequently Asked Questions, answered by the author of this book, are designed to both measure your understanding of the concepts presented in this chapter and to assist you with real-life implementation of these concepts. To have your questions about this chapter answered by the author, browse to www.syngress.com/solutions and click on the "Ask the Author" form.
Q: If I have a green belt in Six Sigma, do I need project management training?
A: Six Sigma is a business process improvement system that is implemented slightly differently at each company you go to. Project management is similar in that while there is a standard body of knowledge, PM is implemented slightly differently every place you go. Having a strong understanding of project management fundamentals will help you no matter what job or industry you end up working in and you'll find that, like Six Sigma, project management fundamentals will improve everything you doeven projects at home or in your community. It's a portable and transferable skill set that's definitely worth getting.
Q: My company has just achieved ISO9001:2000 certification. Do I need project management training?
A: ISO9000 is another rigorous business process improvement methodology. Unlike Six Sigma, ISO standards are centrally managed and archived. ISO9000 standards are the same wherever you go. However, just as with Six Sigma, you can always benefit from understanding project management fundamentals. Standards in companies are sometimes applied only to development or manufacturing processes. Being able to implement a consistent project management methodology is certainly part of business process improvement even if it's outside the scope of the BPI methodology your company is using.
Q: If I learn the project management fundamentals in this book, will I have to learn someone else's system later on?
A: No. The project management fundamentals in this book are just thatthe fundamentals found in any project management system. Though the terminology or specific implementation will change from company to company (and from project management system to project management system), once you know and understand the basics, you can build on that knowledge and adapt to any system that your company uses.
Q: We have no executive support for many of our IT projects. What can we do about that?
A: As you learned in this chapter, executive support both for a project management methodology and for the IT projects you undertake is critical for project success. In the next chapter, you'll learn how to make the business case for your projects by tying them into strategic corporate initiatives and by providing various business analyses that will have your top executives ready to sign on the dotted line and ready to support your initiatives.
Q: I've run a lot of projects in the past, some have failed, some have been cancelled, and some have been successful. Does that make me an "experienced" project manager even if I have no formal training?
A: Experience takes many forms, so yes, you probably are an experienced project manager (project success factor #3). After reading through this book, you might want to review some of your successful and failed projects and see what went right and what went wrong in light of your new knowledge. This will help you improve your skills and provide you excellent material for your next job interview, should you apply for a new position using your experience as a project manager. Using the information presented in the remainder of this book will supplement your skills and fill in gaps. It will also provide you with a thorough, systematic process to use if you don't already have one.
Q: The projects at our company are large and complex. Will the project management fundamentals in this book be of any use?
A: Absolutely. For instance, in this chapter alone you've learned that smaller projects, shorter time frames (schedules), and smaller scope (amount of work to be done) all contribute to project success. You might take this knowledge and see if you can divide up any of your current projectsperhaps looking for projects that are off-track and seemingly headed for disaster, failure, or cancellation. Splitting them into smaller projects might save those precarious projects and make you look good in the process. Even if you can't split up your projects, understanding these fundamentals will allow you to understand any other, more complex projects. Larger, more complex projects typically have more "moving parts" and are more difficult to coordinate and manage. You may need more advanced project tools to keep everything on track, but the basics don't change.
Q: You mentioned the four constraints of any projectscope, time, cost, and quality. In our company, quality is always of utmost importance, how does that impact this "equation"?
A: Any company in business today should be concerned with delivering the highest quality possible. However, quality can be relative. If you are building a house and your budget gets tight, you might choose polished brass fixtures over 18K gold plated fixtures. They both do exactly the same thing and may work exactly alike (same functional quality) but one isn't quite as luxurious as the other and by downgrading from gold to brass, you have reduced quality without impacting the overall quality of the finished product. Note that quality is sometimes referred to as performance, functionality, or features. When we discuss quality and grade later in this book, we'll talk more about this.
Q: Our company is small and we have a very tight IT budget. You haven't really talked about project management software tools. Are we going to have to purchase something like that in order to use the concepts in this book?
A: No, you will not have to purchase project management tools to learn and use the concepts in this book. Many companies (and IT managers) find these tools helpful, but they are not required. That said, the bigger and more complex the project is, the more likely you are to see significant savings and efficiency gains by using various PM tools. There are numerous Web-based tools you can use, many with reasonably monthly subscription rates. Several enable collaboration for geographically disbursed teams, while others provide additional communication tools. However, if you're running smaller projects, you can do so with a pen and paper, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, etc. While those may not be optimal, they're certainly adequate for many smaller projects. One final note: Having project management software doesn't make you a project manager any more than having Microsoft Excel makes you an accountant. Learning project management fundamentals is the first step to using any project management tool more productively and effectively.