Do Project Management Tools and Outcomes Differ in Organizations of Varying Size and Sector?

By Furumo, Kimberly; Pearson, J. Michael et al. | Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management, Annual 2006 | Go to article overview

Do Project Management Tools and Outcomes Differ in Organizations of Varying Size and Sector?


Furumo, Kimberly, Pearson, J. Michael, Martin, Nancy L., Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management


Introduction

As information technology improves and the cost of technology becomes more affordable, organizations that once found it prohibitive to include innovative information systems technologies in their business models no longer find this to be the case. The term information systems (IS) project is used to describe a wide variety of different projects which, when completed, help the organization update or expand its information technology infrastructure. These projects focus on implementing or updating the organization's hardware and software and include software application development projects, e-commerce applications, network upgrades, and data management and data warehousing applications to name a few. IS project teams complete tasks such as identifying hardware and software requirements, estimating costs, and coordinating the installation of various hardware and software applications. These tasks can be outsourced to a company that specializes in IS project management or handled in-house. In-house project teams may include technical staff, functional users and outside consultants. The coordination of these IS projects is referred to as IS project management. IS project management can be defined as the use of tools, techniques and methods to coordinate an IS project team, within a given set of constraints.

Project management, as it relates to information systems, is not a new concept. During World War II, the need for project management became obvious because the government needed a way to systematically track the numerous projects that were occurring simultaneously (Frame, 1994). In the 1960s, IS project management became associated with complex mainframe systems (Brooks, 1987). As we enter the 21st century, the computing environment is more dynamic and global than ever (Collins & Kirsch, 1999; Wetherbe, Vitalari, & Millner, 1994). Given the complex, dynamic, and global environment in which many organizations operate, understanding the factors which influence the success or failure of IS project management is paramount.

Studies suggest that a significant percentage of IS projects run into problems, many requiring additional resources to complete. Problems may be related to poor planning and goal setting (Guinan, Cooprider, & Faraj, 1998; Yetton, Martin, Sharma, & Johnston, 2000), team leadership (Hartman & Ashrafi, 2002; Zmud, 1980), or lack of support from upper management (Aladwani, 2002). The Standish Group International Inc. (2001), a research advisory firm, surveyed executives and found that American companies spent an estimated $22 billion in IS project overruns and $75 billion on software projects that were eventually cancelled.

While project management in IS is not a new area of study, previous research has not distinguished how project management practices vary in different types of organizations. This study focuses on two criteria in which organizations vary. First, organizations may vary by sector. Some organizations are in the public sector, while others are in the private sector. Private sector organizations may be publicly traded or privately owned. Organizations in the public sector are government organizations that are technically owned by taxpayers or publicly owned.

Second, organizations vary by size. The Small Business Administration www.sba.gov/size/ defines small businesses according to sales ($) and number of employees. In general, but not in all cases, organizations with 500 or fewer employees are considered small businesses. In the business related literature, researchers refer to small and medium business enterprises (SMEs). There does not seem to be a specific definition for SMEs, however, most authors view them as profit-making businesses of limited size, which stand alone and not as a subsidiary of a company, and have regular accounting practices and produce financial statements. The size of the enterprise varies by country with smaller, less developed countries setting the size limit at 200 employees and smaller, and more developed countries setting the size limit at 500 or fewer employees. …

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