IT, Business Must Work Together on Project Management

Ann All

Given the rapid pace of technological change in today's business environment, it's no surprise that technical abilities were the top choice of CIOs asked by Robert Half Technology in which areas they'd most like to see their IT staffs improve.


Coming in a very close second (cited by 23 percent of CIOs vs. 25 percent for the top answer) was project management. The next three vote-getters were verbal and written communications (15 percent), organizational skills (14 percent) and interpersonal skills (12 percent).


It's no secret that geeks with business skills are a hot commodity. CIOs no doubt singled out project management because of the high failure rate of IT projects, which many experts put at 70 percent.


While project management is one of those areas that demands close alignment between IT and business strategy, that appears to be lacking at a lot of companies, based on a recentsurvey of project managers by IT business services specialist Parity. Just a third of the respondents considered completing projects on time and within budget as top priorities -- despite the obvious importance of these metrics to the business.


It's common for project managers and business executives to "use different measures of success," says Parity's CEO, who advises making sure that the business sponsor works closely with the project team. The business sponsor and the project manager should share "an equal amount of responsibility."


Another expert interviewed in the recent IT Week article about the survey suggests that the project manager should stick around for "a post-project period of care" to ensure that the transition to the business sponsor goes smoothly.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture employs an interesting strategy to train project managers, which is detailed in a GCN article. The USDA program emphasizes not only project management concepts, but also capital planning, enterprise architecture and earned-value management as a way to measure project progress.


The result, says the USDA's CIO, is "very few problems across our portfolio with our projects staying on schedule and within budget."

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