Developing Best Project Management Practices for IT Projects, Day 2

The two presenters were:
Frank Cervone, Assistant University Librarian for Information Technology
Northwestern University

Grace Sines
, Head, Information Technology Branch
USDA, ARS, National Agicultural Library

Day 2 continued with discussions on the 9 areas of knowledge within project management.

Having a work breakdown structure (WBS) can be helpful in time management. This is a decomposition of all the parts of the project in a hierarchical arrangement.

Quality management is difficult because you can’t just expect quality to happen. The team needs to set specific and measurable goals to help achieve quality, and check the quality throughout the life of the project life cycle.

Human resources management is also difficult because of the nature of people. It’s crucial to have a competent and committed staff, and to provide training if necessary. To keep the “expert” staff members from getting burned out since they are often put on many teams, try having team members rotate, or have the expert staff member mentor another team member instead.

Each member on the team has a different way of leading and responding to leadership. However, “If no one seems to be in charge, then no one is.”

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to have buy-in from the team. Team members need to know what their roles are on the team, and the leader should know the motivation of the team members for being on the team. And it’s also crucial that project plans not be developed in isolation, and to have the project manager pick his/her own team. The team then writes the scope or charge, and does the planning.

There are three types of team members:

  • Achievement motivated team member: These people set clear targets and provide lots of feedback.
  • Affiliation motivated team member: These people allocate time for small talk, need time to process, and often need support or coaching.
  • Power motivated team member: These people are concerned with getting involved, are usually very eager, and want to make sure people understand their responsibilities and key deliverables.

We discussed the various forms of pulling and pushing technologies (email, blogs, RSS feeds, bulletin boards, and websites) that can help increase communication within a project team. Frank said that he really liked the concept of the blog because you can have feeds coming from them, which gives people options.

Risk management is a systematic process for planning, identifying, analyzing, monitoring, and responding to and controlling risk. Risk is often seen as a negative thing, but could be looked at more positively, and might present new and challenging opportunities. The project team needs to do a risk analysis, evaluate contingency to be included, and carefully measure the risk.

How do you estimate time?

The presenters gave us a nifty equation that will help estimating how much time a particular activity within a project, or the project itself, will take.

O = optimistic guess of how long the project will take to complete
P = pessimistic guess of how long the project will take to complete
ML = most likely the time it will take to complete the project

O + P + (ML x4) / 6 = the time it will probably will take to complete the project

We looked at tools for helping manage the project parts. Microsoft Project or Visio are great tools, but an Excel spreadsheet can sometimes do the job just as well, depending on the size of the project.

Reasons why failure occurs:

  • Failing to establish commitment
  • Inappropriate skills
  • Project isn’t really necessary, or it’s seriously misguided
  • Premature commitment to a fixed budget or schedule
  • Adding resources to overcome schedule slippages
  • Inadequate people management skills

Why projects succeed:

  • High user involvement
  • commitment by all (including team and sponsors)
  • cultural acceptance
  • adequate time and resources
  • Support from the management
  • Clearly defined objective and requirements
  • Excellent planning and project management
  • Good communication
  • Being able to stop a project when needed

We concluded by talking about how to introduce these ideas and tools into our own work environments. Frank and Grace suggested that these templates and ideas could gradually be introduced so they have higher potential to get integrated.

Published by

Rachel Vacek

Rachel was the LITA President from 2014-2015. She's currently the Head of Web Services at the University of Houston Libraries, in Houston, Texas. She is a 2014 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2007 ALA Emerging Leader.

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