Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Managing IT Projects: Theory or Practice?

~ By Barry De Boer

Technology word cloud illustration

Information Technology and the development of business computer systems, is relatively new, by which I mean less than fifty years old. I started in this business in the early 1960s and was involved in the replacement of punched card tabulator systems with punched card computer systems (such as IBM 1400s).

As the technologies grew more sophisticated (e.g. disks, bigger memories and compilers) so the systems we developed became much more complex. As the IT industry grew, so did the numbers of programmers, analysts and operators working within it.

These were mostly very bright people, skilled and inventive but with often little appreciation of the needs of business. The wheel would be reinvented countless times in many different ways and there were as many different ways of structuring computer programmes as there were programmers doing it!

It was out of this that system development methodologies arose. These early methodologies were often developed by the major hardware manufacturers and management consultancies and were intended to be templates for development. Some were good, some were truly awful. Some were concise and some, like SSADM, were massively overblown and became the "tail wagging the dog". Inevitably, the overblown ones became adopted by governments all over the world, adding massively to the cost and timescales of IT development in the 1980s without significantly improving overall quality.

The advent of databases (relational, hierarchical, etc) added to the complexity and made ever larger development projects the order of the day. This was partly the trigger for the emergence of project management methodologies because IT project management was frequently assigned to systems analysts and programmers with massive technological skills but little in the way of organisational skills.

The management consultancies quickly saw commercial opportunities and we saw a plethora of proprietary project management methodologies but it was the UK government's CCTA which broke the mould and launched PROMPT - an almost workable methodology for IT project management. This was developed, firstly, into PRINCE and then into PRINCE2, which is good and has become widely adopted.

It is not unreasonable to regard PRINCE2 as the benchmark for project management methodologies and it does, indeed, provide a route map. I use it routinely in most of my projects, but it begs the question:

Does Using a Good Methodology Make Me a Good Project Manager?

It certainly helps but project management is more than just the mechanics of the process. It is about interpersonal skills, stakeholder awareness, presentation to management and understanding your rules for winning.

In other words, it is a blend of theory and skills.

My eBook Project Skills looks at many of the issues involved and tries to meld theory with practical advice. You don't have to work in the industry for 30 years, but it sometimes helps if you listen to someone who has.


Barry De Boer is a leading project management consultant with over thirty years of industry and government experience in the UK, Europe and worldwide. Barry is a member of the Association for Project Management, and has lectured widely on project management techniques to government, military and commercial organisations, and has frequently been employed in project "rescue" roles.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Is it true or false that seven is a number?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

So You Want to Be a Project Manager

Businessman smiling with hands together

Not sure what skills it takes to become a Project Manager? This article lists the six key skills required to be a successful project manager.

The 8-Step Guide to Creating a Quality Project Schedule

Businessman with a Gantt chart

This article looks at a simple, practical approach to creating project schedules. After reading this article, you will have a sound approach to creating schedules that you can use for future projects.

Belbin and Successful Project Teams

Business team brainstorming using coloured labels on an office table

Creating successful project teams is a daunting task for project leaders. A good method for matching people to roles is the Belbin Team Inventory Method (BTIM).

Undertaking a Successful Project Audit

Audit checklist clipboard with checkboxes marked for related concepts

A project audit provides an opportunity to uncover issues, concerns and challenges encountered during the project lifecycle.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Dr. Paul D. Giammalvo commented on…
7 Project Management Types and When to Use Them
- Tue 16 July 4:02am

Yasmin commented on…
Use Your Whole Brain: Leveraging Right-Brained Thinking in a Left-Brained World
- Wed 3 July 8:51am

Majaha commented on…
Introduction to Project Management
- Thu 13 June 8:51am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Project Management Tutoring https://t.co/HYwT5D9rsX about 7 days ago

General Project Management • Project Management in Gaming Companies? https://t.co/yrlGkKjXLy about 7 days ago

RT @pmtips: Teresa Lawrence, on the question "How important is it for professionals that aspire to become project managers to acquire any o… about 7 days ago