Project Management Practice, Generic or Contextual – Reality Check (Besner & Hobbs, 2008)

Tool usage in different types of projects

Besner, Claude; Hobbs, Brian: Project Management Practice, Generic or Contextual – Reality Check; in: Project Management Journal, Vol. 39 (2008), No. 1, pp. 16-33.

Besner & Hobbs investigate the use of project management tools. In a broad survey among 750 practitioners, they try to find patterns when different tools are applied to manage a project. They authors show that tool usage depends on the factors

  • Organisational maturity level of project management
  • Project similarity and familiarity
  • Level of uncertainty in project definition
  • Internal customer vs. external customer
  • Project size and duration
  • Product type

Among these factors the last one is the most interesting. Besner & Hobbs grouped their sample into three legs according to product type a) engineering & construction, b) IT, and c) business services.
So where do IT projects fall short compared to their counterparts in Engineering and Construction?
One area is the vendor management (bidding documents, conferences, evaluations) which is a strong point in E&C but a weak one in IT. Another area is the cost planning (financial measurements, cost data bases, top-down/bottom-up estimation, software for estimating costs) and in execution IT projects show lesser usage of Earned Value Techniques and Value Analysis.
[Fair enough – I do think – the intangibility of IT projects makes it difficult to apply these concepts unbiased and meaningfully].

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