Question of Balance

As IT budgets have soared and user demands for optimal ROI have increased, managing quality, time, and cost must be accomplished with recognition of a fourth critical project factor — customer satisfaction. User complaints about a lack of responsiveness, the inability of IT professionals to engage users about their IT needs in "user-friendly" terms, a lack of reliability about time lines along with related service sins have all produced a heightened awareness of customer satisfaction and the means used to secure it in many IT organizations.[2]

To address the greater importance of customer satisfaction, the quality, time, and cost framework introduced earlier has been expanded. Exhibit 1 displays this expanded view of IT project management.

Exhibit 1. Maintaining the Balance: The Project Management Framework

Task F acto ra

Relationship Factura

/ UelíveraWes \

f Customer / Satisfaction \

/ \ \

/ i

k \

/ \


\ Customer j \ Sefvxe /

The implication of this framework is that IT professionals must balance alignment among the task factors (i.e., quality, time, and cost) with the press of the relationship factors (i.e., customer service and customer satisfaction). If IT professionals allow the balance to tip too much in the favor of task factors, too little emphasis is given to the relationship factors. Project managers may successfully complete the tasks on their project plans but create off-target work products and frustrated customers.

On the other hand, if the balance is allowed to tip too much in favor of the relationship factor, the opportunity to deliver timely and cost effective work products is lost. Creating a service balance is the second major theme underlying changes in the IT field. When the balance is achieved and maintained, IT professionals come to be respected as business partners by users because they build useful work products for satisfied customers.

Viewing IT work through the lens of this project management framework emphasizes the importance of balancing four critical project factors: quality, time, cost, and customer satisfaction during project planning and later in the project life cycle. To achieve and maintain this balance, IT professionals must directly engage in the power and influence dynamics of implementing organizational innovation. Productively managing these dynamics helps preserve the balance between the project factors and enhances the IT professional's ability to manage priority pressure. Five prescriptions for achieving this are as follows:

1. Sell good ideas by emphasizing benefits that the user or customer perceives as valuable.

2. Build a common vision of project outcomes and how people will work together to achieve them.

3. Generate commitment to ideas or implementation plans by getting users to modify them in the direction of personal and business interests.

4. Engage conflicts directly and resolve them efficiently and effectively.

5. Assertively enforce standards of IT excellence.

Each of these ideas is developed in the following sections.

[1]This idea is borrowed from Quinn, R. (1999). Managing Deep Change. San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[2]Longenecker, C. O., Simonetti, J.L., and Mulias, M. (1996). "Survival Skills for the IT Professional." Information Systems Management, Spring, 26- 31.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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