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Sharing knowledge critical to IT project team success

Bill Goodwin

IT project teams' ability to share knowledge and experience with each other and the rest of the business is critical if IT projects are to add value to the bottom line, according to the team leaders of a major research project.

A study by leading academics, led by the University of Oxford and Computer Weekly, is expected to show the ability of IT project teams to communicate, share and manage their knowledge is critical if IT projects are to genuinely benefit the business, rather than simply meeting time and budget targets.


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The project, led by Chris Sauer of the University of Oxford, Blaize Horner Reich and Andrew Gemino of the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, aims to systematically assess the contribution IT projects make to the performance of an organisation.

"Until now, most IT research has focused on understanding project performance against time and budget targets. Little is known about IT projects and their success rate in delivering business value," said Blaize Reich, professor at Simon Fraser University.

Initial research by the group was based on an analysis of 25 IT projects with an average budget of $1.1 million. It suggested effective knowledge management accounts for 60% of the business benefits achieved by IT projects.

The most important factor in a project's business impact is not the level of knowledge of a project team, but their ability to relate to and value each other's knowledge and expertise.

"The cycle starts when the governance team selects IT and business steam members who are willing to listen and learn from each other. The next step is developing and nurturing a strong learning orientation within the project team, " said Reich.

"Finally, the governance team needs to create opportunities for formal and informal knowledge-sharing. This combination of individual characteristics, team culture and knowledge-sharing structures is what creates the gestalt within which difficult projects can deliver," she said.

The latest research updates an earlier study by Computer Weekly and the University of Oxford in 2003. That study revealed that, despite claims to the contrary, project managers were making significant improvements to project performance.

But it also underlined several areas that were lacking, including career structure, systematic identification of project manager potential, and support for project manager development.

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Click here to download a copy for the 2003 project management survey (requires registration) >>


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