Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

The Development of a Taxonomy of Desired Personal Qualities for IT Project Team Members and Its Use in an Educational Setting

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

The Development of a Taxonomy of Desired Personal Qualities for IT Project Team Members and Its Use in an Educational Setting

Article excerpt


In the literature on IT Project Management, it is well-recognized that people are the most important asset of an IT Project Manager (Cadle & Yeates, 2001; Schwalbe, 2004). It is also well-recognized in the literature that 'soft skills', such as skills in communication, conflict resolution, motivation, getting along with others, and leadership, are vital to project success (Belzer, 2001; Sukhoo, Barnard, Eloff, Van der Poll, & Motah, 2005), so much so that many organizations include 'soft skills' training in their training programs (Arora, 2003). Universities and academics also seem to recognize the importance of 'soft skills', often proposing the embedding of 'soft skills' in university programs or courses (Jewels, 2003; Sukhoo et al. 2005; Tong, 2003). It would seem, then, that companies and universities realize the importance of project team members having 'soft skills'. The initial purpose of the present paper was to develop a taxonomy of desirable personal qualities of project team members as an aid to assessing the range of personal qualities of current or potential project team members. It turned out to be more than that: when different student groups were asked about personal qualities they believed would be desirable in project team members, differences were found between undergraduate and graduate students who had been learning about project team management and also between these students and those who had just completed a year long group project with external clients. The result is not just a taxonomy of personal qualities desired in project team members, but evidence that the different educational opportunities afforded by different types of educational experiences greatly affects students' beliefs about what would be desired personal qualities of IT project members. Implications of this finding are discussed.

Desired Personal Qualities of Project Members

With many IT projects being cancelled before completion, running over budget and time, and being less reliable and having less functionality than expected, the great need for improvement in the delivery of IT projects is well-documented (Dhillon & Backhouse, 1996; Hochstrasser, 1993; Lin & Pervan, 2001; McGunnagle, 1995; Schwalbe, 2004; The Standish Group, 1995, 2001). There is a growing recognition that IT projects do not normally fail because of a lack of adequate technology and that it is the so-called 'soft skills' that contribute to the success of projects (Mulally, 2002; Murch, 2001). Thus, there is also increasing acknowledgement that it is not just technical skills that project team members need in order to ensure project success (Brewer, 2005): 'soft skills' in team members are vital. However, at the moment when authors discuss 'soft skills' they usually simply give lists of skills. Some examples are given in Table 1.

Sukhoo et al. (2005) do suggest which skills a project manager will need to activate more during different phases of project management, but the 'soft skills' are still seen as a list. Like Sukhoo et al., other authors also focus their discussion of 'soft skills' on the skills that Project Managers, or leaders in general, should have. DuBrin (2001), looking specifically at characteristics of good leaders, says that qualities found in effective leaders fall into three broad categories: personality traits (such as self-confidence or adaptability), motives (such as power or achievement), and cognitive factors (such as creativity or knowledge of the business). The qualities desired in team members, the individuals who make up the team, are usually forgotten. Instead, research has focussed on the types of tasks that individuals in teams must undertake if they are to be successful. Margerison and McCann (Margerison, 2005; Margerison & McCann; 1995) identified nine critical work activities:

1. Advising: Gathering and reporting information

2. Innovating: Creating and experimenting with ideas

3. …

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