Project Management in the Face of New Software Such as Agile
Project management in general and database design, in particular, will never be the same again. This is due to the impact of new modeling and management techniques like the Agile Software. These new techniques have pushed out completely or highly transformed the old ways of managing projects. In the case that is discussed by Ambler, database design is not as it used to be. The rise in the significance of soft skills is also a major issue in project management. It reminds us that even with the possession of unrivaled technical knowledge in an area, successful management of projects takes the human side. This has its advantages and disadvantages, but going by their popularity, it is evident that people prefer these new techniques to the old ones (Ambler 2008, p.1).
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First, the new techniques have led to the versatility that has allowed one person to do more than one job. The same techniques have made it possible for two to three people to be on the same job without causing any friction. This has led to the disappearance of traditional jobs on the diagrams; a scenario that may make one wonder how the system runs without certain professional positions. To illustrate this, people who own businesses, as well as the developers of business, perform or carry out the function of analysis (Ambler 2008, p.1). This, therefore, makes it easy to eliminate the position of a business or project analyst. If one looks at the diagram, he or she will think that the system is deficient in terms of professionals in that the analyst is missing. But this is not the case. The reality is that the role of analysts is done by other professionals. It is also possible to come across an analyst working in the same firm that is under the ownership of someone else. The owner does his or her analysis. This puts the owner and the analyst on the same job without necessarily conflicting. The principles of quality and timely production are still important even in these new management designs (Agile Alliance 2010,p.1)
Moving from the above, several traditional positions have disappeared under the new techniques. Why would a job disappear? The fact that a job can disappear and the system continues to function properly means that the role of the eliminated job was not that crucial to the running of the firm. This is one of the consequences of the new modeling techniques. It is possible that the nature of work that was being done by the eliminated area is being fulfilled in another position; leading to the continuation of the system without interruption (Ambler 2008, p.1). It is therefore necessary that this unique quality of project management be mastered by any project manager who intends to be successful.
Leaving new modeling techniques aside, successful project management is not just about the possession of technical ideas or skills. Leadership is necessary. The leadership qualities that project managers need to manage successful projects are collectively called soft skills. It is possible that an individual in a managerial position may have high-quality technical skills but still ends up coming out without achieving anything in a project. This is definitely because this individual lacks the other major requirement in successful project management. This missing ingredient is leadership or soft skills. What do these soft skills do?
First, soft skills help the project managers know how to deal with people from different departments who are part of the project (Gillard 2009, pp.1-2). The project manager usually deals with two groups of people. Some are fixed to the project for as long as it runs and some offer consultancy services and are available on a temporary arrangement. They are summoned when their services are needed. It is tricky to deal with such diverse teams if the manager is not a dynamic leader. This is where people skills come and only managers with soft skills can pull through.
Secondly, the communication complexity of the role of the project manager is so immense to the extent that if soft skills are not developed, the entire organization may be jeopardized. The project manager is in a risky position that involves the groups discussed above as well as the other organizations that have direct or indirect input to the project (Gillard 2009, pp.1-2). It is rare to find an organization that runs a project that does not need input from other organizations. In this case, it is the responsibility of the project manager to reach out and procure or secure the required support for the project from these other organizations. If the leadership skills of the project manager are deficient, then the relationship between the organization running the project and the other organizations will be jeopardized leading to problems.
The Importance of Top Management Support for Successful Information Technology Projects
According to statistics, the number of failed information technology projects is far much higher compared to successful ones. This means that there is a need to find out why there is such a massive failure in information technology projects (Qassim 2008, pp.14-15). The available research however points to the fact that the top management in projects that are technology-based plays a very significant role in determining the outcome. The project managers in information technology projects play several important roles that are crucial for success. These roles are as discussed below.
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To begin with, each successful project, whether it is in the field of information technology or a different field needs adequate control. The control function is described as administration in other settings. Adequate control ensures that the dedication to the agenda that the project is supposed to pursue is not forgotten. In the absence of control, it is possible for the employees working on the project to wander to other areas or even lose focus totally (Qassim 2008, pp.14-15). After focus is lost, the project is failed. This is how important adequate control is in the area of project management in general and project management in information technology in particular.
Far from the above, information technology projects are well managed when the roles of every individual are defined. This is a job that is carried out by the top leadership of the project. What then happens if the roles of the various players in a project are not defined or they are clearly defined? This becomes a recipe for chaos. It is not possible to have anything meaningful out of a project that is characterized by chaos. An information technology project that does not have a clear role definition for the people working on it is a failed project and given that this is the function of the top managers of the project, then the top leadership in project management is very crucial and necessary for successful information technology projects.
Besides the above, top managers are responsible for the determination of the objectives as well as the scope of the project (Qassim 2008, pp.14-15). How important is the determination of the scope or the spelling out of the objectives of a project in information technology? The scope of the objectives acts as a guide for the project employees. Is it possible to shoot what you have not aimed at? It is not easy to get what you have not chosen given that you do not even know it in the first place. This is what the determination of the scope does for the project. It gives the project the target to hit. This means the people who are involved in the project will put their effort in a certain direction and dedicate all their energy towards getting there. The top managers of information technology projects are the ones who are responsible for the determination of the scope and the selection of the objectives to be met. Therefore the top leaders are instrumental to the success of the projects. What do I think about top leadership in information technology projects?
In my opinion, the above ideas about the role that the top leadership plays in the success or failure of information technology projects are justifiable. This is because the control of staff members in the projects and the administration of such processes as training and remuneration are part of the decisions that the top leadership makes and if these decisions are not made in the right way it is possible that the staff members will get demotivated and none of the project’s objectives will be achieved. On the other hand, if the members are treated well by the top leadership, then it is definite that the project will turn out to be a success. The issues of adequate control, scope determination, and role definition are extremely important.
A Report on the Response from Professional Project Manager on How the Project Management Framework of Her Organization was developed and how it has evolved over Time
Amber Dahlin is a professional project manager working with Education for Kids, a nonprofit organization that strives to enable children from poor families access to computer education. She has managed seven projects for the organization in seven different locations in the United States where information technology specialists have managed to set up well-structured centers for computer education for children of between seven and seventeen years (Dahlin 2010, P.1). Older people who have an interest in information technology are also allowed to make use of these centers. There is however a limit in the number of older people who can use these facilities and when the number exceeds the limits, the center sends information to the headquarters in Chicago and an annex is set up for the older learners. I set out to find out how the project management framework of the organization was established and the changes it has undergone over time. I did this by asking her a set of questions. Her responses are summarized below.
Amber said that the framework was established through a careful consultative forum among the stakeholders of the project. A sample of young people, the organization’s leadership, and donors were invited to a meeting where ideas were collected and used to develop the framework. The initial framework was developed by Amber with the help of the Chief Executive of the Organization who is highly skilled in project management. It involved the appointment of a project manager who was then given the objectives of the project. The project manager was given the power to come up with the structure of his or her team and the estimated resource level that would be required to finance the project. The understanding was that the dynamic nature of the project would lead to adjustments in human resources as well as finances and this was clear to all. Upon the completion of the framework, it was presented to the management board which had all the stakeholders (Dahlin 2010, P.1). It was approved.
On whether the framework had been able to get the job done, Amber was quick to point out that the framework’s strongest point was flexibility. This is what has made it work marvelously for the organization. She was appointed to the position of project manager due to her experience and she has since run seven different projects for the organization. All of them have been successful and this is what she uses to show me that the framework has served the organization well.
Concerning the evolution of the framework, Amber is very categorical that no useful framework is static. All working frameworks in all areas of project management are dynamic and they, therefore, evolve. New realities on the ground determine the changes to be made to the framework (Dahlin 2010, P.1). For example, she tells me that at some point in one of her projects she realized that she needed to get three software specialists to ensure that the computers being installed in the project areas were using the standard software. This is a concept that had not been considered earlier on.
In conclusion, a successful project management framework takes the views of all the stakeholders. It also remains true to the practical needs of the people it seeks to serve. This means that it changes according to the reality that is existing at the moment the project is being implemented. Rigid frameworks may not function in environments that are radically different from the ones that were meant to serve when they were formulated. This means that they cannot serve any purpose. But dynamic frameworks will always change or evolve to meet the needs of the parties being served by the project.
Agile Alliance.2010.Manifesto for Agile Alliance Software Development. Web.
Ambler, S., 2008. Agile and Large Teams. Web.
Dahlin, A. 2010. How the Project Management Framework of the Organization was developed and how it has evolved over Time. Personal Interview. 2010.
Gillard,S.,2009.Soft Skills and Technical Expertise of Effective Project Managers. Web.
Qassim, A. 2008.Why Information Systems Projects Fail: Guidelines for Successful Projects. Web.