The resourceful project manager

These are challenging times for IT project managers.

The business wants new systems built yesterday to meet customer demands. IT projects have to be run through the ROI gantlet and get intense scrutiny from all corners of the company. Business conditions change mid-project. And a few coding cowboys in the programming shop wish the process cops, who enforce strict adherence to the development methodology, would lighten up.

But taking shortcuts can lead to project failure, which isn’t good for the business or IT credibility. So IT projects are caught between the need for speed and flexibility on one hand, and the need to follow a disciplined, successful methodology on the other.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” says Jack Probst, assistant vice-president of IT process and governance at Nationwide Insurance Cos.

Fortunately, Probst says Nationwide’s CIO, Mike Keller, explains to business leaders why IT project discipline is important. He also points to successful projects as proof that the discipline works. “That gives us some breathing room with the business community,” a grateful Probst told me.

That’s the way it should be: the CIO providing political cover so IT project managers can get the job done right. Which is not to say that IT projects should go as slowly as possible or get bogged down in bureaucracy. The IT department that delivers systems too late to meet the business’s needs is doomed to irrelevance.

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