The IT Project: How Is It Different?

Intuitively, organizations and project teams have always felt that IT projects are different and therefore must have a unique set of project management tools and techniques to accomplish them. However, project management techniques and tools can apply to any project in any industry, regardless of whether it involves software, hardware, construction, engineering, or services. It is not the tools that are different, but rather the projects. What make IT projects different are their unique risks, the rapid development requirements to meet rush-to-market demands, the short life of technology, and multiple dependencies with other projects. So the tools are the same, but they must be applied differently depending upon the project type and complexity.

It is true that several techniques have been developed that shorten software development cycles, but these techniques are process-oriented, so they are not classified as tools—they apply equally well to other industries. Even so, it is important to understand these techniques and how to apply them in IT projects. Several of the most common rapid development tools are discussed in Chapter 10.

A comparison of general characteristics of IT and non-IT or traditional projects is shown in Exhibit 1-1. These characteristics are discussed throughout the book, but graphically showing how IT projects differ will help to focus your thinking on how to apply the project management tools and techniques as they are discussed in the following chapters. Discovery of how these tools and techniques are applied will benefit several different individuals, functional organizations, and the organization as a whole.

Exhibit 1-1: A comparison of IT and non-IT project characteristics.

start example

Project Component

Non-IT Project

IT Project


Not integrated with most business functions

Usually linked with business processes and organizations systems

Project structure

Often stand alone

Usually multiple projects with numerous interdependencies


Well defined

Less defined and subject to change

Change control

Well defined

Definable change control process but more difficult to track


Fewer; easier to identify

More; more difficult to identify


Often full-time (depends upon organizational structure)

Usually part-time; skill sets used as task progress dictates


Best people in critical skill sets; average in others; more generalists

Best people available; mostly specialists

Large projects

Divide by organization or establish stand-alone unit

Allocated by specialty (risk areas) across organizational lines


More easily identified; poorly managed but usually with less negative impact

Not easily identified; poorly managed with high project/organizational impact

Metrics documentation

Poor to fair

Moderately good, but poorly applied

Lessons learned

Poor to fair


Budget and schedule estimation



end example

Managing Information Technology Projects
Managing Information Technology Projects: Applying Project Management Strategies to Software, Hardware, and Integration Initiatives
ISBN: 0814408117
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 129
Authors: James Taylor

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