Are Project Managers Too Focused on Technology and Tasks?

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-09-21

Technology projects rarely go off without a hitch. We all know it, and we all have seen and absorbed an unnecessary amount of stress, blame and headaches from projects gone wrong.

Why do they go wrong? Bad project management? Poor planning? Bad estimation of work scheduling? Missed dependencies? It's easy to have one throat to choke with a project manager, but often, it's people management skills rather than any one project plan or scheduling deficiency that make the difference between project success and failure.

While these can all be factors, among the more overlooked aspects of project work are the relationships between internal departments and external teams. Without full cooperation between teams who are focused on the end result, you can expect to have a bumpy ride, says the article, "Project Management: How IT and Business Relationships Shape Success."

One problem the article brings up is that many project managers may be a tad too focused on software, processes and technology solutions rather than onbuilding the relationships that are key to a project's delivery and ultimate success:

Despite the positive impact good relationships have on project management, IT project managers rely more heavily on software and methodologies than on building relations when they need to improve their delivery. It's no wonder: Compared to the time it takes to build relationships, software seems like a quick fix. IT project managers are also most comfortable with tools.

"As IT professionals, we're raised on technology," says Ouellette & Associates' Hagerup [Bill Hagerup, a senior consultant with Ouellette & Associates, an IT leadership and project management consultancy]. "Almost all the training we get throughout the years is about tools and processes."

Consequently, he adds, IT professionals think process and technology [are] the answer to everything, including effective project management. While project management frameworks and tools certainly help, projects are fundamentally people-driven, he says.

"When things go wrong [with a project], it's people who have done something that didn't work," says Hagerup. "Problems start with people and they end with people."

Yet project management training and certification programs are only just beginning to address the people side of projects and the importance of relationship management. Most emphasize task management, according to Hagerup.

Hagerup estimates that PMs spend too much time on tasks (80 percent) and not enough on people (20 percent).

How much time do you spend on tasks versus people management on projects you have a stake in?

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