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Project Management and Leadership

Need project management and leadership  for an information management project and want some practical suggestions to ensure rapid project delivery?

Project management skills needed for information management projectsProject Management and Leadership include the usual skill set but also include technical skills not normally required for traditional project management.

Why is that?

Information management projects are data centric and require highly skilled IT specialists.

Requirements are different than traditional projects with much more emphasis on data requirements, and business intelligence usage requirements.

Architecture and design is different as much if the emphasis is on data storage and data movement.

Quality assurance testing is highly technical and requires significant involvement from the technical team.

Release testing is sometimes more extensive and error prone than traditional projects and needs to be carefully managed to ensure that time is not lost e.g. if a back-up is not taken at the correct step, and something goes wrong that involves a restore, much time could be lost waiting for a restore from earlier back-ups.

So what?

A good project manager should be able to plan for these events and manage accordingly.

Yes and no—Imagine you are an experienced IT project manager and you see an opportunity to manage a bridge construction (don’t laugh—I received an unsolicited request to do that in an exotic location)… But seriously—would you apply? Or would you leave that management job to a project manager with specialized civil engineering, and bridge construction project experience?

Information management projects also require specialized project management and leadership.

So what do we need?

The best project management model I have seen has two heads:
  • An administrative project manager, responsible for all the usual project management tasks such as financial management, budget reporting, care and feeding of any project management tools, status reporting to business owners, etc; and
  • A technical lead (technical project manager) responsible for the overall design, development and successful implementation.
Why two project managers? We can barely afford one!

Well, in that case, pick the technical project manager.

The technical lead is the critical role that will make or break the project and will provide the best chance for on time, within budget delivery.

Why is this so critical?

Information management projects have highly skilled multi disciplinary teams and it is imperative that someone provides technical direction/coordination and makes project management and leadership decisions based on experience.

Highly skilled professionals frequently have opinions based on their view of the world—A project manager must have the experience to prevent technical challenges from delaying the project and creating much rework.

I have seen projects where:
  • The requirements analysis team takes forever to finally conclude that data requirements include all data (ummmm..not much thought to why it is required;
  • The data modeling team creates a data model that is so generic; it is impossible to find data;
  • The business intelligence designers demand data mart models so complicated that they cannot be loaded; and
  • Data movement teams are caught in the middle hoping to find the right data and load it into impossible structures.
These types of issues can be avoided with an experienced information management project manager/technical lead.

What do we need?

If you want a successful information management project, consider a project manager with…
  • The usual project management skills including planning, organizing, and communication;
  • An excellent knowledge of information management policies, standards and best practices and project methodology;
  • Demonstrated experience providing technical leadership to multi-disciplinary teams comprised of requirements analysts, data architects, data movement and BI designer/developers, quality assurance testers, and release management teams;
  • Experience with project management tools such as Microsoft Project or Omni Plan, and other tools such as requirements management, document management, testing and configuration management; and
  • Project management certification (desired, but demonstrated hands-on experience is more important)
This can only really be gained through 12-15 years of technical design and project management experience in a variety of information management and data warehousing environments including leading database and data warehouse design, data movement and business intelligence solutions.

But this will cost a bundle!

Think of the cost of a 25-person project team waiting two days to restart testing while an unexpected back up is restored! Then think of how many days like this a good technical project manager can prevent…OK, you get the point.

Can project management and leadership be done part time?

That’s a good question—I have seen technical leads provide leadership and direction to 4-5 projects at one time so it is possible.

However, these technical leads provided support to project managers who had ownership for much of the administrative project work.

With today’s technology and project collaboration tools, much more can be done remote than was possible even a few years ago.

Summary...

Information management projects are data centric and require highly skilled IT specialists including specialized project management and leadership.

Don’t make the mistake of having a project manager learn on your project!


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