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An exploratory investigation into the contribution of project management methodologies to the successful management of IT/IS projects in practice

Wells, H.; (2011) An exploratory investigation into the contribution of project management methodologies to the successful management of IT/IS projects in practice. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Improving project performance by means of ensuring successful management, development and delivery of Information Technology / Information System (IT/IS) projects remains the top priority of most organisations and project communities. As a way of addressing this, Project Management Methodologies (PMMs) are regularly employed with the aim of increasing project efficiency and effectiveness. Public and private sector organisations worldwide invest significant resources into efforts ranging from a review and tailoring of the current practices to the adoption or development of a new PMM. However, despite these efforts, the contribution of these methodologies towards improving project performance and increasing successful delivery of IT/IS projects has rarely been examined or articulated. With a plentiful variety of PMMs and approaches (Traditional, Structured, and Agile) promoted as „must have‟ and „must do‟, each claiming to be “the way to success” there is limited empirically underpinned research fathoming the role which PMMs play towards successful management of IT/IS projects. The aim of this research is therefore to gain a deeper understanding of the selection and usage of PMMs in practice. This study looks beyond evaluating PMMs purely based on their traits and characteristics and investigates PMMs in their operational context: where PMMs originate from, how they support practitioners and why their implementation can cause difficulties that impact on project management, and hence ultimately influence performance in ways that can support or jeopardise project success. Through first-hand investigation of PMMs in use in their business context this study obtains a firm grasp of how PMMs ultimately facilitate or impede IT/IS project management. The research paradigm is phenomenological with the purpose of study being exploratory. An inductive approach and reasoning is employed given the scarcity of other research on this complex subject. No pre-conceived hypothesis or conceptual models were used although the research questions were validated and fully informed by the existing literature. The investigation, data organisation and data analysis were organised around the research questions. The research strategy employed is that of a multiple case study approach focusing on PMMs as the unit of investigation. Four case studies spanning disciplines, project contexts and types of PMM provide anchorage into front-line management of IT/IS projects. Case One focused on PRINCE2, a widely used structured PMM. Case Two concerned an in-house structured PMM. Case Three employed a gate-phased PMM. Case Four hosted a gate-phased PMM in the process of being phased out and replaced by agile approaches. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews. Practitioners were interviewed (48), each being in different roles with varied levels of accountability in design, development and management of projects. Some of these practitioners were key decision makers of PMM development and application. The collected data was qualitative. A combination of interpretative and content analysis was employed using a general inductive approach for qualitative data analysis. A transparent step-by-step approach to data organisation and categorisation was established. The data analysis was strongly informed by the existing research and literature. All these steps sustained the dependability and conformability of research with the research methodology and against the literature background. Overall, this research demonstrates that top-down selection and implementation of PMMs leads to four primary findings, which contribute to our understanding of the role of PMMs in the management of IT/IS projects. 1) Type-agnostic, context-free application of PMMs occurs with insufficient consideration given to IT/IS specific traits and characteristics, which in turn impedes management of projects. 2) Misalignment arises between the intended benefit of PMMs at the strategic level and the reported benefits by project managers at the project level. Additionally practitioners‟ expertise, accountability and attitude all have a direct influence on the extent to which PMMs contribute and benefit management of projects. 3) Reliance is placed on project managers to tailor the PMMs at the project level. Subsequently, informal tailoring at the project level often results in their inconsistent application. 4) In the case studies examined the organisations‟ definition of project success was predominantly efficiency-oriented (time and cost) underplaying effectiveness and business benefit. Hence the definition of project success shapes the selection and usage of PMMs. Findings 2 and 3 are new and original contributions to knowledge, whilst findings 1 and 4 provide further empirical evidence in extending our understanding of this subject.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:An exploratory investigation into the contribution of project management methodologies to the successful management of IT/IS projects in practice
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management

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