IT Projects Need Yardstick

Opinion: Without a standard IT project management scale, IT project management will continue to wallow in mediocrity.

You would think that after four decades of computing, we IT professionals would have our acts together on project management. Sadly, many of us dont. One of the reasons for this, I believe, is that project scope gets the better of us.

Why? We dont have a standard measurement scale that gives us a clue as to the size, expense, resource utilization, time frame or business impact of a given project. We need something that Ill call the Power Scale for Project Management.

In other fields, such as meteorology, there are useful measurement scales. For tornadoes, there is the Fujita Scale; for hurricanes, there is the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Not so for IT project management. Sure, you can talk about cost or staff numbers, but those are not definitive indicators of project management complexity.

The academic and business communities should begin an earnest effort to establish an IT Project Management Scale. I envision a 15-step scale that would be divided into three major divisions—large, medium and small—with each subdivided into five categories of complexity.

The scale would function exponentially, and projects would be placed on the scale via a scoring algorithm that includes a multitude of project factors in combination with business and financial ratios such as project expense versus corporate profit, business risk and the usual return-on-investment calculations. For instance, a P14 project would be significantly greater in impact than a P3 project.

The scales greatest value would be enabling organizations, large and small, to express the various factors relative to one another. For example, a small organization may score higher if a project has a high degree of business impact (that is, revenue risk), regardless of relative project expense.

In comparison, a large organization may spend more on a project, but the projects overall impact on revenue might be small to moderate. Thus, the project would be lower on the scale.

Among the benefits of such a scale would be a better basis for hiring project management professionals and for outsourcing services that are appropriate to the task at hand. It would also provide a better mechanism for justifying the need for projects in order to gain funding from reluctant chief financial officers.

And, most important, it would improve your best practices in project management by enabling more accurate assessment of techniques and methodologies and the impact of these procedures on project outcome. This could go a long way to cutting the number of IT project failures.

We need a standard IT project management scale. Without one, IT project management will continue to wallow in mediocrity.

Paul C. Tinnirello is a CIO in the financial publishing industry. His e-mail address is Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community and welcomes contributions. Send submissions to


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