The magic of is project management revealing the masters secrets
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The Magic of IS Project Management: Revealing the Masters’ Secrets. Kathy Schwalbe, Ph.D., PMP May 2, 2000 PDS 2000. [email protected] www.augsburg.edu/ppages/schwalbe. Expert Revelations on How to Succeed in Project Management. Tricks to Avoid. Examples from the Field.

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The Magic of IS Project Management: Revealing the Masters’ Secrets

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The Magic of IS Project Management:Revealing the Masters’ Secrets

Kathy Schwalbe, Ph.D., PMP

May 2, 2000

PDS 2000

[email protected]/ppages/schwalbe


Expert Revelations on How to Succeed in Project Management


Tricks to Avoid


Examples from the Field


Personal Secrets


Expert Revelation #1: Alignment

  • Projects are much more likely to succeed if they align to organizational needs and goals

  • “Aligning information systems to corporate goals has emerged as the number one concern over the last five years in surveys of information systems executives”*

*Strassmann and Bienkowski, “Alignment of IT and Business:

Keys to Realizing Business Value,” ABT Corporation, 9/29/99


Why Firms Invest in IT Projects*

*Bacon, James. “The Use of Decision Criteria in Selecting Information Systems/

Technology, Investments, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 3, September 1992


Trick to Avoid #1:

“Because IT’s There!”


Expert Revelation #2: Leadership

  • The majority of characteristics of effective project managers are managerial in nature

  • Project managers must be able to lead and manage and have necessary technical skills


The Most Significant Characteristics of an Effective Project Manager*

  • Leadership by example

  • Visionary

  • Technically competent

  • Decisive

  • Good communicator

  • Good motivator

  • Stands up to upper management when necessary

  • Supports team members

  • Encourages new ideas

*Zimmerman and Yasin, “A Leadership Profile of American Project Managers,” Project Management Journal, March 1998


Trick to Avoid #2

Making your best

technical person the

project manager


Expert Revelation #3:User Involvement

  • The number one reason why IT projects fail is a lack of user input (CHAOS, 1995)

  • There are several ways to increase user involvement

    • Have users lead or co-lead IT projects

    • Have a senior manager outside of IT sponsor and champion IT projects

    • Put star users on the project team and co-locate users and developers

    • Provide interim deliverables that users can understand on a regular basis


Checklist for User Involvement*

  • Do I have the right user(s)?

  • Did I involve the users(s) early and often?

  • Do I have a quality user(s) relationship?

  • Do I make involvement easy?

  • Did I find out what the user(s) need?

*Standish Group, “Unfinished Voyages,”1996


Trick to Avoid #3:

Thinking IT knows

what’s best


Expert Revelation #4: Senior Management Support

  • Experts agree that you need senior management support for projects to be successful

  • Senor management can (or cannot) provide:

    • Adequate resources

    • Quick approval for unique project needs

    • Cooperation from people in various parts of the organization

    • Mentoring on leadership issues


Clear project mission

Top management support

Good project schedule/plan

Good client consultation

User involvement

Executive management support

Clear statement of requirements

Proper planning

What Helps Projects Succeed?

Pinto and Slevin*

Standish Group**

*Pinto and Slevin, “Critical Factors in Successful Project Implementation,”

IEEE, February 1987

**The Standish Group, “CHAOS,” 1995


Trick to Avoid #4:

Assuming it’s okay

if senior managers

and users don’t

protest too much


Expert Revelation #5:Clear Project Purpose

  • Having a clear mission or purpose and a clear statement of requirements are crucial to project success

  • It’s much easier to get project approval and lead a project if you understand the underlying reason for it, even if it the specs are not crystal clear


Defining and Selling “Way Cool Projects”*

  • Challenge 1: Futzing with the structure and specifics of a given task…until it becomes a “way cool project”

  • Challenge 2: Selling that “way cool project.” Great project management—in the real world!—turns out to be mostly a sales game. I.e., getting all sorts of folks to support you, help you, give you their very best!

*Peters, Tom. Reinventing Work: The Project 50, 1999, p. 12


Trick to Avoid #5

Faking coolness


Expert Revelation #6:Communications

  • Being a good communicator is an essential project management skill

  • Master project managers are great at listening, persuading, explaining, and discerning the best way to communicate with different stakeholders

  • Project managers must be “astute”


80% of Problems…

  • “Eighty percent of the ‘problems’ in workplace or personal relationships are really not problems—they are misunderstanding”*

  • “I’ll pay more for a man’s ability to express himself than for any other quality he might possess.” Charles Schwab

Wetherbe, James and Bond. So What’s Your Point? 1996, p. 3


Trick to Avoid #6

Over-relying on reports,

web sites, or other

formal communications


Expert Revelation #7:Plan and Replan

  • Proper planning is key to project success; remember that the purpose of project plans is to guide execution

  • Project plans must be tailored to the needs of each particular project

  • Be flexible when changes occur and be ready to update plans accordingly


Planning is a “Quadrant II” Activity*

  • Using Stephen Covey’s time management matrix, quadrant II activities are important but not urgent

  • Quadrant II activities include planning, prevention, relationship building, and recognizing new opportunities

  • Highly effective people, including project managers, focus on Quadrant II activities

*Covey, Stephen, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1990


Trick to Avoid #7

Taking shortcuts

to planning


Expert Revelation #8:Execute, execute, execute

  • The most important job of a project manager is to get the job done

  • Project managers must balance scope, time, and cost goals

  • If you can’t deliver results, you can’t meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations


Why CEOs (and Project Managers) Fail

  • Bad execution is the main reason why CEO’s are “booted”*

  • Bad execution means not getting things done, being indecisive, and not delivering on commitments

  • A good plan, strong leadership, good communications skills, team building, etc. all help with execution

Charan and Colvin, “Why CEO’s Fail,” Fortune, June 21, 1999


Trick to Avoid #8

Not focusing on results


Expert Revelation #9:Team Building

  • Project managers must foster an environment for teams to thrive

  • Some experts suggest

    • Hand picking your project team

    • Focusing on goals and outcomes to promote teamwork

    • Establishing team-based rewards

    • Creating a fun work environment

    • Providing a quiet work space!


Trick to Avoid #9:

Assuming smart people

work well in any

team situation


Expert Revelations #10:Structure

  • Most people like and need structure to guide projects

  • Using a clear and consistent approach to project management helps projects succeed


Project Management Maturity Model*

  • Ad-Hoc: Disorganized, chaotic project management (PM) processes; low success rate

  • Abbreviated: Some processes in place, but project success is largely unpredictable

  • Organized: Standardized, documented process and systems; more predictable success rate

  • Managed: Management collects and uses measures of effectiveness of PM; more uniform success

  • Adaptive: Feedback from the PM process and from piloting innovative ideas and technologies enables continuous improvement; success is the norm

*Enterprise Planning Associates, 1998


Trick to Avoid #10

Winging it too often


Example from the Field: Northwest Airlines’ ResNet*

*A full case study on ResNet is available in Schwalbe’s Information

Technology Project Management text, Course Technology, 2000


ResNet Background

  • ResNet is the main reservation system used today by Northwest Airlines

  • From 1993-1997, Northwest Airlines worked on three distinct projects to develop and install ResNet on over 3,000 workstations in nine different cities

  • ResNet was a huge success in terms of meeting scope, time, and cost goals and exceeding stakeholder expectations


The Master’s Secrets on ResNet

  • Alignment: The main reason for funding ResNet was to stop losing money on the call centers

  • Leadership: Peeter Kivestu, then a marketing director, led all three ResNet projects

  • User Involvement: Sales agents did a lot of the coding for the ResNet interface

  • Senior Management Support: The VP of Reservations provided the vision for ResNet

  • Clear purpose: Focused on increasing direct sales and reducing call handle time to save money


The Master’s Secrets on ResNet

  • Communications: Peeter and his team used varied, innovative ways to communicate

  • Plan and Replan: The project team created and followed realistic plans

  • Execute: The entire ResNet team focused on meeting project goals

  • Team building: Peeter hand picked key team members and provided a fun work environment

  • Structure: Everyone knew that milestone dates had to be met


Peeter’s Expert Advice

  • Have clear project goals. It is human nature to want to achieve goals

  • Create a fun working environment to promotes buy-in, creativity, and teamwork. Use themes and special events to make projects fun and memorable

  • Set realistic milestone dates and stick to them. Missing dates causes too much chaos


Kathy’s Personal Secrets

  • Have passion for your projects

  • Provide challenge, creativity, and fun on IT projects along with structure

  • Clearly define what the main stakeholders really mean; be astute

  • Create an open, learning environment and mentor future project managers


Final Thought: Remember that we all influence our future leaders!

Scott Schwalbe –

Future Governor?


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