Basic project management tools and techniques are the same regardless of whether one is involved with hardware, software, services, or in an IT project that combines them all. To successfully plan, implement, and complete a project, work breakdown structures, schedules, risk analyses, and other commonly used tools of the trade are needed. The tools are the same—but the projects are different.
Different projects require different technical and management approaches. The application of traditional project management tools and techniques is generally less successful in the IT industry. This is not because these techniques are inapplicable but rather because the unique characteristics of IT projects are not taken into account. In other words, we apply the tools assuming that IT projects have the same characteristics as engineering or construction projects and expect them to respond in the same way. Therein, lies the problem—IT characteristics such as risks, schedule requirements, customer needs, market-driven pressures, and even the competitive environment differ from those found in the traditional project world. So the challenge is not to learn unique tools and techniques but to learn how to apply the traditional ones in a different environment. To do that, we have to understand the uniqueness of IT projects and their products.
A project has both a life cycle and a systems development life cycle during which a number of typical activities occur. The key to planning and managing IT projects is to understand these life cycles, how they fit together to accomplish the project and product requirements, and what activities the project manager is responsible for during the entire process. The project life cycle (PLC) encompasses all the activities of the project, while the systems development life cycle (SDLC) is focused on accomplishing the product requirements.
This chapter discusses how the systems development life cycle fits into the project life cycle and the differences between IT projects and traditional engineering or construction projects. Since one of the principal differences between IT projects and others are the risks involved, a comparison of the risk differences is made in this chapter. A more complete discussion of risk and risk management is found in Chapter 7.
Understanding the environment of any project requires a good understanding of its life phases, what occurs during each phase, and what the project manager is required to do to successfully accomplish these phases.