Knowledge Areas for IT Project Management

In his article, “10 ways to avoid mistakes during project development”, Alan Norton describes 10 items or methods that can be used to avoid critical mistakes during the project planning and management processes (Norton, 2010). Each of these 10 items or methods can be addressed through the application of the 42 project management activities, grouped within the nine Knowledge Areas, as described in the Project Management Body of Knowledge, otherwise known as the “PMBOK”.

Learn from other’s mistakes.

Mistakes are often the result of poor project planning and/or process execution, something which can easily be prevented during project the planning stages (Project Scope Management and Project Risk Management) and if need be remedied during both the execution stages and monitoring stages (Project Quality Management) of a project.

During the planning stages a clear set of goals or defined requirements greatly aids in the Project Managers ability to properly assess the risks associated with the project. The Collect Requirements and Define Scope processes associated with the Project Scope knowledge area are fundamental to this action. Having a clearly defined set of goals allows for the Project Manager to perform in depth Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis, along with the development of a Risk Response plan, all of which are associated with the Project Risk

Management knowledge area.

In the event of an issue or mistake, the Quality Assurance and Quality Control Procedures associated with the Project Quality Management knowledge area, could be used to rectify the issue, and to make sure the project meets the required project goals.

Do your research first.

As Norton states, “there is little excuse for mistakes made because you didn’t do the proper research in advance” (Norton, 2010). Proper research should be performed during the planning phrase of a project. As such there are a number of processes available to a project manager to make sure that he or she has the correct information at his or her disposal, specifically, collection of project requirements, definition of project scope and the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure or WBS. All of which are part of the Scope Management knowledge area.

The Work Breakdown Structure is perhaps the most important deliverable at this stage, as it not only defines the scope of the project, but it also gives the project manager an overview of all required work within a project. This in turn allows for the proper execution of each unit of work required for successful completion of the project.

Have a plan.

This is perhaps, the single most important item on Norton’s list, and is best served by developing a project management plan, associated with the Project Integration Management knowledge area.

A Project Management Plan is a deliverable item, used to coordinate all planning activities and execution of the project. Development of a Project Plan requires knowledge of all aspects of a given project. As such the project manager should consult with members of the project team as well as the applicable stakeholders. The Project Plan, while unique should include information relating to project objectives or goals, project organisation, timeline and of course budget.

Follow standards and use templates.

The use of templates offers a number of benefits, not only cost and time savings, but there are also quality benefits. Templates and other forms of standard items are often purchased, or acquired from an outside source. Be that a different department or team within an organisation or an external organisation altogether. In this case, a purchasing or acquisition decision would need to be made. This procedure is known as Planning Procurements, and falls under the Project Procurement Knowledge area.

In order for effective procurement, the project manager should develop a Procurement Management Plan. This plan should detail how the procurement process will be managed and maintained for the duration of the project.

Communicate and coordinate with others.

Communication is quite possibly the most important part of every project (Schwalbe, 2010). Regular communication between team members along with stakeholders is a crucial component of success. As such there are a number of processes dedicated to the effective management of communication, all of which are associated with the Project Communications Management knowledge area. As such is it important that each of the processes association with this knowledge area are completed in full and to the best ability of the project manager and associated team members.

As such an effective Communications Management Plan document, produced from an efficient use of the Plan Communications process helps to mitigate any potential issues. Another factor that may come into play is the choice of communication medium. For instance email may be fine for internal team communications, but hard copy (printed documents) may be better for stakeholder progress reports.

Allow enough time.

It is no secret that IT Projects have historically run over schedule and over budget, making Project Time Management an extremely important knowledge area. In order to allow enough time for a project to be completed, an effective Project Schedule must be developed.

However a Project Schedule cannot be developed without defining the actives that need to be complete along with estimating how long each of those activates will take to complete. Both of which rely on effective communication between the project manager, stakeholders and team members, along with an established WBS. The WBS acts as a de facto activity list, which is in turn broken up into more defined activities. Once the activities list has been defined it can be sequenced to find interrelated or dependent activities, in order to help prioritise the activity work list, and estimate the required resources for each activity.

Once completed, consultations with the team members responsible for a particular activity should be conducted in order to properly estimate the required duration of each activity.

Reuse proven code.

Reusing proven technologies is great way to save time and to maintain quality of a project. In order to make use of existing technologies it is important to know if there are technologies that are applicable to your project. As such the Project Scope Management and Project Procurement knowledge areas are fundamental to the assessment of these technologies.

For example without knowing the project requirements it would be impossible to assess if a particular technology is applicable to your project. Or, how do you assess a technology to see if it was applicable without a procurement planning detailing the selection criteria for external acquisitions.

Use Checklists.

Checklists are most commonly associated with the Project Quality Management knowledge area, as they are commonly used during the Quality Assurance and Quality Control processes of a project. Checklists offer a simple way to establish whether or not a project has met the criteria or goals set out in the Project Plan. They can also be used to provide a simple framework for Stakeholders and team members to sign off on units.

Test, test, test.. and carefully review your work.

Quality Assurance is quickly becoming one of the most talked about aspects of IT Project Management, as again, it is no secret that IT Projects are far from being error free. That mere fact alone makes the Project Quality Management knowledge area of great importance to modern IT Projects. This is especially true of the Quality Assurance process.

The Quality Assurance process enables project managers to quickly gauge the health of an IT projects through the use of benchmarking and quality audits. Benchmarking allows for comparative assessments of current and previous projects, along with providing immediate feedback, allowing for adjustments to be made to the project in order to deliver the necessary level of quality.

Quality audits allow for specific metrics to be applied to a particular activity in order to assess its ability to meet the goals of the overall project.

Test again with a third party.

Again, as pointed out previously IT Project Quality is of great importance due, as such expert user or third party testing is of great importance. Third party testing can be facilitated through the use of the Project Human Resource Management and Project Management knowledge areas.

The Acquire Project Team process from the Project Human Resource knowledge area facilitates the acquisition of third party users or testers, while the Project Quality Control process from the Project Quality Management knowledge area provides the framework needed for those users/testers to perform quality control on the project.

Summary

Of the addressed knowledge areas there are four that standout as having the most impact when considering Alan Norton’s “10 ways to avoid mistakes during project development”.

They are, in order:

However, this in no way diminishes the impact of the other knowledge areas as a whole. Each knowledge area addressed plays a critical role during project management process.

Special attention should be paid to the following knowledge areas during each phase of the project as they appear to be reoccurring issues when dealing with IT Projects:

References

Norton, A. (2010). 10 ways to avoid mistakes during project development. Retrieved from http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=1360

Schwalbe, K (2010). Information Technology Project Management, Sixth edition. Boston, MA: Course Technology

About Jeremy

Jeremy is a Father of 3, Husband, overly opinionated Software Engineer, DevOps Practitioner, Baseball Coach and Professional Trouble Maker.

Jeremy is currently the Chief Trouble Maker at Lüp where he oversees engineering.
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