Project Management and Project Management Software - A Comment

Monday, 1 September 2008 23:08 by RanjanBanerji

The June 2008 issue of the Project Management Journal has an interesting paper titled "Impact of Organizational and Project Factors on Acceptance and Usage of Project Management Software and Perceived Project Success" by Abdullah Saeed Bani Ali, Frank T. Anbari, and William H. Money.  What I find interesting is that based on my experience and observations of what goes wrong in project management the authors seem to have ignored two key issues:

  1. Organizational Culture (is it a process oriented organization?) as a determinant for adoption of project management software and
  2. Defining acceptance and usage of project management software.

Before I get into the details of my point of view I will like to make a few clarifications, disclaimers, fine print stuff etc.

  • This is not an academic writing.  Keep this in mind as you read.  I am discussing a paper written by academics and they tend to get really worked up for no reason.  So calm down folks, this is just my opinion.
  • This is based on my experience in the software industry so what I am about to say may or may not apply elsewhere.

In the above mentioned paper the authors postulate 10 hypotheses about acceptance and usage of project management software and then they collect and analyze data to see which hypotheses are supported and which are not.  The 10 hypotheses are:

  1. The perceived ease of use has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  2. The perceived functionality has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  3. The perceived information quality has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  4. Organization size has a positive relationship with the use of project.
  5. Project size has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  6. Project complexity has a positive relationship with the use of project management software.
  7. Level of project manager training has a positive relationship with project management software usage.
  8. Level of project manager experience has a positive relationship with project management software usage.
  9. Level of project manager education has a positive relationship with project management software usage.
  10. The use of project management software has a positive relationship with project manager performance.

To learn about their conclusions go read the paper.  This post is more about what they did not include in their study.

 

Organizational Culture

In my IT career I have worked for software companies and software services (consulting) companies.  When at a consulting company you can end up working for various project managers that belong to either your own organization or to the organization that is receiving your services, i.e., the client.  Across these projects, project managers, and organizations (employer and clients) it is easy to observe that many, in fact most, do not follow a well organized software development process.  Management at these organizations will strongly disagree with my observation.  For whatever reason they live under the impression that a well defined process exists in their organization.  Ask an employee and their answer will be "what process?"

Why do I call this organizational culture?  Well simply because it seems to be prevalent in most organizations that I know of and it seems to be deep rooted in how they perceive the existence of processes.  Its about how an organization chooses to do business.  You may say well maybe this problem is restricted to places where I work.  Very true, but I have friends who work in other organizations.  The pattern sticks.  Process does not manifest itself as a tool or some software.  Process is about how business is done and it comes into existence as a result of very conscious decisions made by the organization's management.  But beyond making such decisions management has to ensure that the organization as a whole actually follows the process.  If not, then you have the very common situation where management thinks there is a process in place while actually there is none.

So perhaps another set of interesting hypotheses could be:

  1. Management believes that their organizations have well defined processes.
  2. Employees in organizations are mostly unaware of any process that management claims is in place.
  3. The presence of a well defined and clearly visible process has a positive relation with the use of project management software.
  4. The presence of a well defined and clearly visible process has a positive relation with the success of the project.
  5. The presence of a well defined and clearly visible process has a positive relation with the success of the project irrespective of whether any project management software was used or not. (its the process not the tool that is necessary).

 

Define Acceptance and Usage

In their paper the authors talk about acceptance and usage of project management software.  But exactly what does that mean?  How do the authors measure the ability to use the software?  Is the software being used correctly?  If the organization has no proper project management processes in place then what exactly is the software used for?

In my entire career I think less than 5% of all managers, project managers, and executives were capable of using any kind of project management tool.  That is not true.  After all I do believe that 100% of them will agree and swear that PowerPoint is the way to go.

As I was writing this post I called several of my friends who work in various Fortune 500 type companies.  When asked if they have some software for project management they all say yes and talk about how much was spent putting it in place.  When asked if they had ever used it or known anyone who used it the answer was no.  Is this valid data collection and analysis on my part?  Hell no, but I think it will be an interesting study for the academic types to focus on.  How about a study that will actually test project manager's skill in using such software when they claim that they use it?

I think adding the two issues

  1. Organizational Culture (existence of a process oriented environment or a desire to create one) and
  2. Correctly understanding the meaning of adoption/acceptance and usage of project management software

to the study mentioned above will provide a much better way to evaluate project management software, its acceptance, and its effectiveness.

 

 

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Comments

September 2. 2008 23:53

Peak

[...]I was writing this post I called several of my friends who work in various Fortune 500 type companies.  When asked if they have some software for project management they all say yes and talk about how much was spent putting it in place.When asked if they had ever used it or known anyone who used it the answer was no[...]

Peak

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