The changing face of project management

It’s no secret that IT project management efforts do not enjoy a particularly high rate of success. Despite the field having morphed into an industry unto itself over the last two decades, the rate of success for large technology-related projects continues to remain abysmally low.

According to market research firm Gartner, a full 66 per cent of large-scale projects fail to achieve their stated business objectives, are delivered late, or are substantially over budget. Also, the firm’s research shows, it is not unheard of for 30 to 40 per cent of a project’s total being spent on reworking and repairing the flaws that riddle the original result.

Looking at the trends that are likely to affect the project management field in the years to come, as outlined to me by University of Waterloo professor Peter Carr in a recent interview, it looks like there is both hope and increased complexity on the horizon for IT managers involved in the process.

One of the big developments, Carr points out, is the increased globalization of project management. With more and more companies farming out pieces of their IT to such offshoring hotbeds as India and South America, the projects are being handled collectively by teams located in many different parts of the world.

It’s hard not to say that this development makes project management that much more challenging. It’s been tough enough getting all involved parties on the same page when they’re all no further than a short walk down the office hallway. But when they’re located half a planet away, communication can get a tad tougher.

Also, when you factor in that you are dealing with varying cultures and different perceptions on how business gets done, the potential for things to get out of hand, or for such concerns to distract managers from the core tasks at hand, becomes more acute. As Carr points out, the need for more stringent controls over the process therefore becomes imperative.

The situation has given rise to another trend affecting the project management realm, namely the use of increasingly sophisticated collaboration technologies. These Internet-based tools allow teams to share information and thoughts in real time, as long as members have a PC and a link to the Net.

All of these trends add up to a changing face for project management. It’s impossible to determine at this point whether they will have any effect on the aforementioned numbers concerning project success and failure.

What can be said for certain, however, is that network managers who play a role in designing, managing or implementing large-scale projects will have to adjust to the new realities. And one of the keys to success in this area will be the ability to manage not just the project, but the people associated with it. The so-called “soft skills” factor is one that IT personnel are being called upon to add to their portfolio as IT processes become more closely aligned with business objectives.

In the project management arena, the ability to effectively communicate with the various stakeholders is becoming more crucial than at any time in the past.