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IT faces a lack of project management know-how

More than 75% of 219 IT executives interviewed earlier this year by Meta Group indicated that a lack of in-house project management skills is a major workforce issue for them. But relatively few companies offer formal IT project management training.

The lack of experienced project managers is so acute, said analysts from Meta and other consulting firms, that they are waiting to see whether IT-intensive regulatory compliance efforts will lead to a resurgence of training efforts.

Margo Visitacion, an analyst at Forrester Research, said Meta's findings tally with her own research.

"A lot of unofficial training is going on where people take on the role of project manager," Visitacion said. But, she added, "the only time there's been a dedicated effort for project management training was Y2K, and once that was completed, the money went somewhere else."

Providing consistent project management training to a technically oriented staff can be a challenge, said Mark Reilley, an IT project manager at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in Washington. He is one of six IT staffers who support 125 users at the non-profit company.

That setup "works well on a day-to-day operational basis", Reilley said. But when the CPB needs to install a new system or make major technology enhancements, we tend to struggle, he added.

The CPB cannot afford to assign a dedicated project manager to each IT initiative and instead relies on a system "owner", meaning an IT staffer, to oversee the work.

Reilley said some IT technicians do not have all the basic skills needed to co-ordinate projects, but the CPB offers them training when possible.

Reilley also mentors staffers during the analysis phase of projects and helps them outline an overall plan.

One of the reasons why many companies lack project management capabilities is that they tend to hire IT professionals with similar skills, said Martin Colburn, chief technology officer at the National Association of Securities Dealers.

To combat that, he said, IT managers should develop a matrix of the primary and backup skills they need and then assess their strengths and weaknesses "to determine where to adjust".

Meta's report, which was issued last month, said that less than 15% of companies polled informally have IT project management training programmes in place. The poll was done separately from the report that identified project management shortcomings as a key issue.

Thomas Hoffman writes for Computerworld


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