Managing an IT project may be the most exciting -- and challenging -- task you ever undertake in your career. This article will show you how to get started. It is excerpted from the book, IT Project Management, by Joseph Phillips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN: 0072232021).
Did you ever see one of those movies with the ace reporter scrambling into the newsroom with just minutes to go before his deadline? He writes a fantastic article on the mayor, the mob boss, or the sports team with just seconds to spare. Meanwhile, his cigar-chomping boss is ranting about this reporterís usual skin-of-the-nose behavior.
Thatís how IT project management can be. The really awful part? Sometimes itís not even that close. Projects are consistently late, over budget, and half- cooked. IT project management is not about implementing a technology. Itís about leadership, integrity, decision-making ability, planning, and time management.
To be a successful project manager, you have to start each project with a clear, concise vision of what the project will yield, when it will end, and how you can lead your team to that destination.
Project management is governed by business cycles, dedication, time, and sometimes weekends. Successful project management takes more than implementing the latest whiz-bang technology. To succeed in project management is to succeed in leadership.
1. What is project management?
A. The ability to complete a task within a given amount of time
B. The ability to complete a task with a given budget
C. The ability to manage a temporary endeavor to create a unique product or serviceó on time and within budget
D. The ability to administer a series of chronological tasks within a given amount of time and under budget
2. Which of the following determine the start of a project?
A. Knowing the project sponsor
B. Knowing the project budget
C. Knowing the project completion date
D. Knowing the project results
3. Which of the following is the most important element of a project genesis?
B. Team members
D. Project manager
4. Why must you interview the project decision makers before starting the project?
A. To detail the budget of the project
B. To determine the project results
C. To gain their support and trust
D. To determine the project completion date
5. What is the purpose of the project charter?
A. To launch the project team
B. To identify the project manager
C. To assign a budget to the project
D. To authorize a project
6. Why must a project manager question every facet of a new project? Choose two:
A. To determine the project results
B. To determine the validity of the project
C. To determine the project budget
D. To determine the project resources
7. Why are new technologies implemented within a company?
A. To increase the speed of internal processes
B. To be more competitive
C. To be more profitable
D. To be more technically savvy
8. When considering the type of technology to implement in any given situation, what are things a decision maker must consider? Choose all that apply:
A. The steps required to implement the technology
B. The users the change will affect
C. The vendorís ability to provide support
D. The business cycles the change may interrupt
9. What is a focus group?
A. An interview process for elective team members
B. An interview process by the team members to determine the success of a project manager
C. A sampling of users affected by the proposed technology
D. A sampling of management affected by the proposed technology
10. Why can a focus group be counterproductive?
A. The participants may not understand the technology.
B. The management involved may not like the technology being implemented.
C. The participants may focus on the problems of the old technology rather than the goals of the project.
D. Team members may have political agendas against the project manager.
11. A project manager would like to use an anonymous tool to gain a consensus on the needs of the project. Which tool is the project manager likely to use?
A. A survey on an intranet site
B. The Delphi Technique
C. An e-mail message to all users within the organization
D. A Monte Carlo simulation
12. Fill in the blank: Increased _______________ results in increased profits.
13. What is a project goal?
A. The end result of the project
B. A statement of the project and its end date
C. A statement of the project, its results, and its end date
D. The mission statement
14. What does a firm completion date accomplish? Choose two:
A. Creates a sense of urgency
B. Signifies a commitment to the project from the sponsor(s)
C. Signals a financial commitment to the project
D. Confirms the project will end
15. Why is a flexible completion date bad?
A. Allows the project to be delayed
B. Signals the project will end eventually
C. Increases time and cost, decreases morale
D. Allows other projects to overlap this project
You are the project manager for Ogden Underwriters Insurance Company. This company has offices in Chicago, Des Moines, Seattle, Lincoln, and Atlanta.
You have been tasked with managing the rollout of a new web-based training program. You are to interview several members of your company to find out what their goals for the project are and work those into your plan as much as possible. As this is a simulated exercise, youíll find quotes from several key personnel in the following table.
To complete this exercise, analyze persons being interviewed, list their concerns about the project, and then record the objective of each.
I am very excited about this project. All employees
should have access to the web site, no matter where
they are located in the country. The training should supplement our existing classroom training and
provide new information as needed. I would also
like to see videos of common tasks for quick review. Finally, the web-based training must be searchable,
user friendly, and easy for learners to stop and
resume lessons with ease. Have fun!
Will this thing really work? Our network seems pretty slow already. I donít have time to be waiting
on images to load, downloads, and other stuff like
that. My computer is so old, and so is everyone elseís in this department, that we canít take another
software upgrade if we have to. By the way, when
are we going to get new computers? Mine at home is faster than the one here at work. Sigh.
This is a great idea; I just hope I have time to
use it. I get interrupted a lot so Iíd need to be
able to pause and restart if necessary. Will this web-based training work with my computer?
Iím using Linux here and Windows NT at home.
I will be able to access it from home, wonít I?
Web-based training will allow for training on demand in modular pieces. The thing to remember
though is that all users will need computers with at
least an 800 MHz, 128MB RAM, and the latest
version of Internet Explorer or Netscape to take
advantage of this. In fact, there are 240 PCs that
need to be replaced in six months. Go ahead and work that into your budget and your plan. Theyíll
need to use Windows XP. I guess thatíll mean these
folks will need training on XP, too.
Web Design Manager
Iíve wanted to do WBT (web-based training) forever. My team will be using Macromediaís ColdFusion, Flash, Authorware, and Fireworks for
everything. Make certain all the users have the correct plug-ins for their browsers.
We can do itóif a few things come true. Weíll need
a fatter pipe to our ISP if weíre going to host the
pages here. Of course, if users are coming from all over the country to this thing, weíre going to need to
talk about security, authentication, and types of
access. Weíll probably need another server for Jillís ColdFusion database.
Now that youíve gleaned the key pieces of information from each of the key staff members, you need to write a charter for the project. Your sponsor for this project is Nancy Gordon. Here are some facts that must be included in your project charter:
Official project name (use your imagination)
Business case for the project
High-level results of the project
A basic timeline of how your team will implement the plan
Required resources for the project (If you would like to find the prices of the new computers, software, and operating systems, you may, but they are not required for this exercise.)
C. Project management is the ability to manage a temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service on time, within budget. Answer D is incorrect because completing a project under budget is nice, but reflects inaccurate planning of what the budget should have been at the project outset. In addition, the project goal must be met.
D. When you begin a project, you must know whatís expected at the end of the project. You wouldnít begin building a house without a plan; the same is true for project management. While knowing the project sponsor and the project budget is necessary, it still doesnít determine what the goal of the project is.
C. Before any effort is applied to the implementation of a project, the project manager and the team must have a vision of what the project will produce, how it will come about, and when it will be finished. Vision supercedes all other elements.
B. Again, you must have a clear understanding of what the decision makersí vision of the project results are before any other factor of the project implementation. After you have a clear understanding of the project vision, address issues such as budget and the completion date. Answer C is incorrect because you will gain the support and trust of the decision makers once you have obtained their vision of the project, not through an interview.
D. The purpose of the project charter is to authorize the project. Answer A is incorrect because the project team may not be selected until later in the project. Answer B, identifying the project manager, is also incorrect. The project manager is named and identified in the project charter, but the purpose of the charter is to authorize the project. Answer C is also incorrect; the project charterís purpose is not to assign a budget to the project.
A, C. A project manager must first determine the project results before beginning a new project. You must know the end results of a project before beginning a project; to do otherwise is asinine. Technology costs money because it makes money. You must know what is required to obtain the desired results. From this information you can form a required budget. Answer B, the validity of the project, is incorrect because answer A will determine that. Answer D is also incorrect because answer A will lead to D.
C. As information technology specialists, it is easy to lose sight of the link between technology and why it exists. The goal of a technological implementation is, generally, to lead to more productivity, which in turn leads to higher profits. If technology does not earn its keep, it should be considered an unwelcome houseguest.
B, C, D. Answer A is not a correct choice because thatís why the decision maker has put you in charge of the project. The decision maker has made the decision and then delegated the implementation to you.
C. A focus group is a collection of users your project will affect. It should consist of a sampling from management and staff, not just management.
C. The participants may focus on the problems of the old technology rather than the goals of the project. An improperly organized focus group can result in a gripe session about the old technology and its flaws rather than the benefits and goals of the new project. A focus group requires a strong leader to help the participants focus on the future implementation rather than their complaints with the current technology.
B. The Delphi Technique allows for anonymous input from participants and provides rounds of discussion for consensus building. Answer A is incorrect because a survey on an intranet site may or may not provide anonymous input. Answer C, e-mail, is incorrect because it does not provide anonymous input from users. Answer D is incorrect. Monte Carlo simulation is a simulation tool testing variables, not a consensus building approach.
C. Technology can be counterproductive. Technology should increase productivity, allow for a quick learning cycle, and ultimately result in higher profits.
C. A goal is a clear, concise statement of the project. It should include the project end results and be positive in nature.
B, D. A firm completion date shows a commitment to the project from sponsors and it confirms that the project will end. A completion date does not, however, signal a financial commitment to the project. A completion date should create a sense of responsibility, but not a sense of urgency or panic.
C. A flexible completion date can result in the delay of the project. The delay of the project will result in higher costs and lower morale.
Exercise 1: Possible Solution
Chief Executive Office
All employees should have access to the web site.
Training should supplement existing training.
Offer videos of common tasks.
Site should be searchable.
Users must be able to stop and resume lessons.
Speed issues need to be addressed.
Computer needs to be brought current.
Users should be able to pause and resume lessons. Need to take multiple operating systems into
Include access from home.
Chief Information Officer
Upgrade computers to at least 800 MHz,
Upgrade browsers. Replace 240 PCs as part of project.
Systems require XP operating system.
XP training required.
Include plug-ins for browsers.
Web Integrations Team Leader
Need faster bandwidth.
Keep in mind security issues.
Need new web server for ColdFusion database.
Exercise 2: Possible Solution
Project Name: Click and Learn: Web-Based Training Initiative Project Sponsor: Nancy Gordon, CEO Project Manager: Your name here Project Goal: A new web-based training program will be created and implemented company-wide by January 2003.
Business Case: Thereís something new and exciting happening at Ogden Underwriters Insurance Company, and itís not a new life insurance policy. Itís web-based training (WBT). WBT will allow us to replace and supplement traditional classroom training on all topics.
No longer will you have to enroll in the same four-hour class because youíve forgotten how to do one ten-minute task. No longer will you get hours and even days behind schedule because you needed to attend a class on the latest procedure for your department. No longer will you need to pester help desk staff, your neighbor, or your favorite computer nerd about how to write a macro.
Instead youíll just click and learn.
Our WBT service will allow employees from around the world to access the information it contains. That means each office and mobile user, and even those who work at home will be able to log in to our site and access the information they need anytime, day or night.
Weíll provide forms, printable directions, and videos of various tasks for each department. Because this technology is web based, it doesnít matter what operating system your computer is running. Itís going to be great.
Youíll be able to search for a specific topic or take an entire structured course. And thanks to our modular approach, youíll be able to pause your training should you get interrupted and then resume it minutes or even days later.
Required Resources: Of course, with this technology there are fundamental changes that will affect all of us. For a start, all users will receive the latest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer and the additional software required to view the videos and complete the WBT classes. 240 computers will be replaced with new, speedy PCs running Windows XP.
Our web server farm will grow to add an additional database server. Additionally, our fractional T1 line will be replaced with a full T1 line starting next spring.
First 30 days Replace 240 older PCs with new computers. Begin offering classes on Windows XP as part of rollout. Work with web developers to create a schedule of course listings for each department .
Second 30 days Continue development of web courses. Order T1 installation. Install and work with Jill Vaughn and Jackson Dahl on integration for ColdFusion server and current web servers.
Third 30 days Begin creation of videos, streaming software, and bandwidth utilization issues. Work with Jill and Jackson on links for Microsoft Explorer upgrade scripts.
Final 30 days Go live with initial classes and test usage. Throttle servers and document results. As month progresses, continue to go live with additional offerings. Create form to request additional courses, troubleshooting, and support.
This article is excerpted from IT Project Management by Joseph Philips (McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2004; ISBN 0072232021). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.