Monday, July 09, 2007

IT Project Managers need to manage their sponsors

Rob Thomsett's talk on "Project Sponsorship" to the ACS in Canberra last week (6pm Tuesday 3 July 2007) was to the usual excellent standard. Using no powerpoint slides and his personal approach Rob took project managers to task for not properly involving their sponsors in IT project. He argues that it is too easy for the IT staff to decide that the senior management of an organization do not understand IT and so allow them to abrogate their responsibility.
The Project Sponsor is critical to the successful implementation of a project. The effectiveness of the Sponsor is the single best predictor of project success or failure.

The Project Sponsor is the person who has the 'vision' and is in a position to drive the project. One of the key elements of the Project Management Framework is that the Project Sponsor is responsible for the realisation of project benefits so it is important that they have a wide perspective and are enthusiastic about the benefits that can be achieved.
Rob argues IT project manager should stop playing cost estimating games with IT projects. They need to resist the temptation to give an realistically low estimate of cost on the assumption that once the organization is locked into the project more funds can be allocated. As an education tool he suggests that when an impossible estimate is requested, the manager should take out a pair of dice and roll them to pick a number at random.

He argues that IT project manager need to negotiate access to senior executives to ensure there is the time to inform them of details of the project. Rob suggests that if this is done the executives will be able to make informed decisions and will be able to remove impediments which slow done the typical IT project.

Rob does most consulting overseas and like much of the audience I was a little confused when he referred to a major problematic project the Australian Government had embarked on. This was not in fact an IT project as such, but the project to address abuse of aboriginal children. This stuck a chord with me as I have suggested that ICT could be used to address the issue, in part.

Rob recommended Warren Bennis' book "Why Leaders Can't Lead: The Unconscious Conspiracy Continues".

ps: The August ACS talk is by Professor Matthew Allen on the Ethics of Networks of Information.

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