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Knowledge "Traps" In It Projects Essay

2783 words - 11 pages

In the information technology (IT) profession, we are engaged in a rather intense battlefor self respect. Much of the value that we deliver to organizations is done through projects, andyet it seems we cannot get project performance right. The quest for value from IT spending hashistorically been difficult to demonstrate [1] [2]. According to a recent Standish Group study, ITprojects have a 66% failure rate - either missing targets or failing to deliver required businessfunctionality [3]. These failed IT projects are a major stumbling block to companies trying toinnovate through new processes and services.Other reports show that project success is improving, caused perhaps by increased use ofproject management methods and by controlling project size and scope. However, recentdiscussions with project managers have indicated that the goalposts are still moving. Ininterviews, senior project managers report that IT projects are getting more ambitious, moreorganizationally complex and more focused on time-to-market. Project managers need to spendmore time at the boundaries of the project - with the governance team and external stakeholders- than ever before. While traditional project management methods are gaining some ground,there is still a need for new perspectives.In this article, a knowledge approach to projects is proposed. Ten places in a project whereknowledge can be lost, misused, or never created are identified as "knowledge traps". Five"knowledge guidelines" for project managers wishing to create an innovative, self organizingproject team are proposed.2. WHY FOCUS ON KNOWLEDGE WITHIN A PROJECT?It is very common for consulting companies and organizations with deep knowledge domainsto attempt to create, codify, store, and re-use knowledge. However, there are reasons to suspectthat a focus on knowledge within projects will also bear fruit. On the surface, a project is adifficult knowledge problem. Teams of strangers work together under time and budgetconstraints to produce something new for an organization. From this perspective, one might saythat a project manager's prime job is to manage the knowledge bases of the team members andstakeholders, so that they combine in the best possible way for organizational success.2Other reasons to support a knowledge approach are found in academic research. Three recentstudies have shown statistically that managing knowledge (in addition to managing tasks andbudgets) can add to the probability of success.• A survey of team members and stakeholders of 69 software development projects [4] foundthat expertise coordination improved performance by 25% over the contribution of traditionalproject management.• Another study [5] tracked the progress of 38 virtual project teams. It found that projectsuccess was strongly influenced by the level of the team members' knowledge of eachothers' expertise (i.e. their knowledge directory) and their ability to harness it to achieveproject goals.• A recent...

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