The Project Management Task You (Almost) Never Complete

The James Webb Space Telescope is the largest optical space telescope ever built. It is designed to see back more than 13 billion years to the dawn of the universe. While the telescope’s functionality is meeting if not exceeding expectations, the project cost more than 10 times what it was originally expected to cost and … continue reading

What do you mean by “communicate?”

Project management tools are amazing. Not only can they tell you the status of your project, but they also produce numerous spiffy charts and colorful graphs that you can paste into the PowerPoint report you are preparing for that senior user management presentation you need to give. You are sure you will dazzle them with … continue reading

Projects, Politics, and Champions

Like all U.S. presidents, Andrew Jackson had an official cabinet, confirmed by the Senate, in charge of the various government departments. However, Jackson tended to ignore the official cabinet members in favor of an informal group of advisors dubbed the “kitchen cabinet.” Since then, many U.S. presidents have relied more on an informal and unconfirmed … continue reading

The Fungible Fallacy: Sociological impediments to effective project management

Part 1 of this article focused on the structural issues of how staff fungibility (the concept that one staff member can be substituted for another) can impede project management. The project management notions of project-month and full-time equivalent, are used to apply simple mathematical operators to people (e.g., two half-time people equals one full time … continue reading

The Fungible Fallacy: Structural impediments to effective project management

Is IT an art or a science? Practitioners seem to be happy leaving questions like these to philosophers. We do like numbers though. Basically, we like to count things. We count users, lines of code, errors, dollars and, one of the coolest things to count, people. We can calculate how many people are needed on … continue reading

In project management, size does matter

There is a potential train wreck out there. According to the trade press and peer-reviewed journals alike, systems development is in trouble. The much revered, and equally reviled, Standish Group’s Chaos Report says that only about 30% of systems development projects succeed, 20% outright fail or are cancelled, and around 50% hobble along in some … continue reading

Confusing the What with the How

Imagine you are building a house. You get all your tools, lay out the lumber, and start constructing the first room. As you are building the room, you decide if it’s a living room, or a kitchen, or a bathroom. When you finish the first room you start on the second, again deciding, as you … continue reading

The most uninteresting reason your project might fail

In 1998, NASA launched the Mars Climate Orbiter, a $300 million-plus spacecraft that traveled more than 400 million miles to the red planet. Even with speeds exceeding 3 miles per second, the journey took almost 9.5 months. Upon reaching its destination, the spacecraft fired its rockets to ease into a Mars orbit. Radio transmission was … continue reading

5 tasks project managers must perform to ‘sell’ their proposals

Did you ever stay up late watching infomercials on TV? Remember the salesman selling that stainless-steel turnip slicer-yogurt steamer, “And if you act now….” He must have been talking more than 200 words a minute. Three A.M., a crummy set behind him, a questionable item that might fall apart faster than its overnight delivery, and … continue reading

New tools are great… just not for critical projects

Imagine undergoing some serious surgery at your local hospital. The nurse tells you that they are all excited about your surgery. Your surgeon is very famous but quite new to the hospital and the surgical staff has never worked with him before, and they are not familiar with his operating room procedures. Further, there is … continue reading

premium Don’t throw away that throwaway code

Want to quickly know how good a project manager is? Here is an old consultant’s trick: Ask a programmer on the team how much throwaway code he or she used during the last project. A good 80/20 rule is the more throwaway code used during development, the better the project manager. Throwaway code refers to … continue reading

premium The most important factor in project success? Your staff

Go to any IT conference or class and you see the attendees chatting with each other about their organization’s hardware, software, and networks. But you almost never hear them talk about their staff. What is surprising about this is that study after study has shown that, of all of IT’s assets, staff is the most … continue reading

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