IT work is getting closer to target

A report due out shortly will provide evidence that IT projects are getting better and closer to their targets, and that there is...

A report due out shortly will provide evidence that IT projects are getting better and closer to their targets, and that there is a shift to smaller projects which are handled more professionally.

The news came from a Computer Weekly 500 Club meeting on project management this month. However, there is still some way to go, judging by the mood of the meeting attended by about 35 senior IT chiefs from user organisations.

One of the biggest problems IT project managers face is not having enough resources or authority from the business to take responsibility. The best results occur where the interests of IT and business are in alignment, and that is demonstrated best in the construction sector.

In construction, board directors are responsible for specific business projects, heard 500 Club members. Project managers are closely tied to their board directors' key tasks who in turn pull out the stops for them at board level if there are problems.

The broad-ranging meeting raised many practical points grounded in deep experience.

Many organisations do little to identify and develop project management talent and support, said one member, to bring in and keep inappropriate people into that role causing a rump of under-performers. IT directors could make a big difference here by taking firm leadership.

There was a consistent message that there is often no need to go outside for talent, it exists in the organisation. Although many consultancies have high-powered people they do not always take the time to truly understand the issues. "Don't bother with large consultancies," said one attendee.

Project managers should not rely dogmatically on best practice, warned another. "Using best practice can crucify projects if taken too far."

An animated discussion about what makes a good project manager ensued with a general consensus that they are born rather than made. "Good project managers have the ability to work through others and understand the business," said a delegate.

Finally, even on successful projects things sometimes get worse before they get better, warned one seasoned old hand. "Allow for the business distraction factor with a large implementation. Expect a profit drop affecting the balance sheet before it rises."

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