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Project Management in the Information Technology/Information Systems Industry
Francis Hartman, PhD, P Eng . Rafi Ashrafi, PhD Organization for Project Advancement and Leadership, The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Both information systems (IS) and information technologies (IT) are core to the competitiveness of virtually any business in a developed country today.Compliance to requirements, schedule, and budget is often a problem on projects in this segment of industry. Current literature repeatedly states that problems with delivery of such projects, and especially software, are related to management, organizational, human, and cultural issues and not to technical ones. This paper presents some information on what practitioners identify as critical to thesuccess of these types of projects. The information is based on personal interviews of thirty-six sponsors, suppliers, and consultants on twelve recent projects. The results of this study contributed to the development of SMART project management.

General The IT/IS business is one of the fastest growing in any industrialized nation. This means that huge amounts of money are beinginvested (Abdel-Hamid & Madnick 1990). Time-to-market pressures alone are pushing the demand for productivity. While this demand rises, and available resources shrink, so the propensity for these types of projects to fail increases. If we are to maintain the status quo (not in itself too spectacular in terms of performance) or try to improve on project performance, we need to address the issuesthat are being repeatedly identified. Some of these issues include: • failure to agree on or understand the requirements • failure to correctly estimate and plan for the project, both as a whole and in stages • failure to control progress and keep effort directed at the right goals • failure to recognize and manage risks early enough.

The Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has already done someinteresting and valuable work in addressing the issues identified above. One of its products is the Capability Maturity Model (CMM). Zells’ (1994) and other studies suggest that about 85 percent of software projects in North America and Europe are performing at level one (effectively unstructured, non-repeatable, unreliable performance). This is borne out by numerous studies, including one by KPMGin Canada, which suggests that some 85 percent of software projects exceed schedule and that 65 percent exceed budget. A survey of high-tech firms in 1991 by Fisher suggests that time and cost could be reduced by more than 25 percent by improving project management, and profits would increase by 5 percent. This is borne out by testing of SMART project management that has readily produced savingsof up to 30 percent on time and cost while improving product quality and customer acceptance on software projects. These results are based on project performance benchmarked against similar projects by the same company but using their own best practices in project management.

Problem Areas Following are some observations from the literature on this subject. Johnston (1995): In the computerindustry failures are rationalized or covered up. As a result we keep making the same mistakes. These mistakes have nothing to do with technology or managers’ technical acumen. Instead, political squabbles, runaways, user expectations, and inadequate support from upper management are to blame. Martin (1994): In over 80 percent of cases, organizational, planning, and management issues are usuallyresponsible for runaways. King (1995): Incomplete requirements, lack of user involvement, lack of resources, unrealistic expectations, lack of executive support, changing requirements and specifications, lack of planning, software no longer needed, lack of information technology management, and technology illiteracy are the main reasons for software project failures.

Proceedings of the 29th Annual...
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