Good project managers essential

Project managers are needed, readers say, but they must be good. And certifications don't automatically make them good.

Recently site editor Michelle Davidson wrote about CIOs' increased demand for project managers and certifications for project managers. She also asked readers if they thought project managers were essential or could projects succeed without them. Many of you had strong opinions on the subject. Here's a look at some of those letters.

Why CIOs need project managers
Thank you for an excellent article on the above named subject. I believe that one of the most crucial reasons why a project needs to be managed by a professional project is that the CIO or his people simply do not have the time (or skills) to manage projects.

Like in most organizations, IT departments are grossly undermanned. Whenever (read: on a day-to-day basis) new projects need to be defined, planned, manned and initiated. It is the project manager who has the required skills and tools who does this and not someone in the IT department. Just as the project manager is not an IT programmer, analyst or architect, so are those people not project managers. Just because you are a good driver does not mean you are a capable mechanic. When an organization requires new desks or office machines, they do not attempt to design these themselves but get these products by appropriate sources. The same applies to a project. By letting a professional project manager carry out the necessary steps, organizations will safe huge amounts of resources and funds.

Jack VanDenHeerik

Hands-on experience critical
Great article. It is about time that CIOs and senior management realize that certification is not the end all and be all in managing projects. I see the certification being a discipline and not a pre-requisite to being a project manager. Extensive hands-on experience is critical to the success of projects. By this I mean a minimum of 15 years experience non-stop within all disciplines.

It's interesting that this certification came out of Y2K. Does anyone remember the requirements for a project manager in managing Y2Y deliverables nationally and Internationally?. As I recollect, the requirement was an extensive IT background managing development and infrastructure projects. Do I need to say more?

Dr. Albert Bissember, FBCS, CITP

Project managers need support
I think project managers are required for the projects to complete. But it is hard. Organizations often don't reward project managers for their work, but they are quick to blame them for failures.

An effective project manager is the one who realizes that when projects fail he will get the blame, and if it is successful he attributes the success to the team members.

One more point is project managers need to be groomed with requisite guidance and handholding from senior management in the organization.

Nilesh Joglekar
Pune, India

Project managers need to understand CMMI
What really should be in demand is project managers who understand the software Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) and how to implement it. Every place I've worked at that uses it don't have one-tenth the issues the other places have.

If they don't know how to implement it, the process breaks down whenever one group gets delayed and then all hell breaks loose.

Bruce Hartley
Rochester, N.Y.

Project management certifications alone not enough
Your article rightly echoes the sentiments of CIOs and his/her direct reports responsible for delivering projects on time and budget. Well said is the fact that project management certifications alone would not make one a good project manager. I think it requires wide experience, technical orientation, excellent people management skills and a flair for numbers.

To your ending question in the article "What do you think?" my response is, "I completely agree that PMs are necessary for the success of a project!"

Bangalore, India

Companies limiting their hiring choices
Your article in was very interesting, thanks. I'm a Programme Director who took the "early package" from BT last March. I started looking for an interim management position last autumn, and while I had a few expressions of interest, none of them came to anything. One of the reasons given was that I was a telecoms boy and therefore wouldn't be able to manage their hotel chain integration, power company consolidation or travel agency IT programme, to name but a few. Although I've been an IT guy for some 28 years, I've also implemented huge business change programmes across all company divisions. To date I've still not secured an interim position.

It appears that while companies are saying they want to recruit project managers, my experience is that they only want them from their own business sector. I can understand this reluctance to an extent, but it must surely limit the field from which they can choose. With my experience I know that I could successfully deliver the projects that passed my way. Even if they take it to the next stage and meet project managers from other sectors before deciding, then they may well meet their needs more quickly and effectively.

As to whether or not project managers are essential or not, well you won't need too many guesses to know how I'd reply. In the past I have told business leaders determined to undertake projects without proper project managers to save themselves the bother, the heartache and the money and don't start, but put the money they would have spent on their bottom line and be seen as a good guy in their boss's eyes.

Dik McFarlane
Glasgow, Scotland

Traditional project management certifications fall short
As a longtime project manager who has lived by his results since 1982, as well as doing advising and training, I've found that traditional project management-related certifications and training tend to fall short with respect to the following:

  1. "This is good, but they won't let us use it." This is the most common comment I get from my seminar attendees, regardless of topic: project management, requirements, QA/testing, outsourcing, ROI, metrics or process improvement. People return from training to an environment -- and a boss -- that doesn't know the lessons and therefore albeit often inadvertently prevents using what has been learned.

  2. Most projects fail from the start because budgets, schedules and deliverables are established and cast in stone/concrete (organizations differ in their verbiage, not in their dilemma) without adequate understanding, often before the project manager even gets involved. The project then becomes one of making the best of an impossible situation.

  3. REAL business requirements are almost always inadequately defined and said inadequacy is almost always not recognized. REAL business requirements adequacy sets the limits on a project's potential success and things only go downhill thereafter. Without adequate REAL business requirements, it's impossible to define appropriate project deliverables and in turn the budgets and schedules needed to produce the deliverables (thus, see #2).

  4. At least in IT, QA/testing typically takes up about half a project, yet project managers seldom understand QA/testing enough to plan/schedule it appropriately.

  5. Outsourcing and "managing vendors" is a constant problem due primarily to three seldom recognized factors: (1) the buyer's failure to define REAL, business requirements means the vendor doesn't know what to propose and often is misdirected, the buyer inadvertently is nullifying the vendor's competencies, and the buyer has no meaningful way to evaluate adequacy of the vendor's delivery; (2) inappropriate and inadequate user acceptance testing; and (3) inappropriate contracting, both inadvertently and unknowingly shifting the legal burden from the vendor to the buyer, and not knowing to build into the contract factors that dramatically enhance chances of success.

  6. Inadequate awareness of and attention to financial factors and ROI, including failure to quantify intangibles, which provides a convenient loophole to enable justifying anything that the powers that be already have decided on.

  7. All of the above continue to be problems because of the biggest causes of project failure -- lack of credibility and lack of commitment to delivering results. Every project manager assumes he is believed, but our industry record (as evidenced in surveys such as the Standish Group's CHAOS Reports) tell a different story. Would you believe someone whose industry is right only 16% or even 28% of the time?

Moreover, people seldom take personal responsibility for the above or for delivering quality on time and in budget. Without commitment to delivering results, they deliver excuses instead and fail to persevere past inevitable project obstacles. This is not saying project managers don't care or work long and hard. Most do, but caring and working hard are necessary but not sufficient for success.

Robin F. Goldsmith, JD
Needham, Mass.

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