A few years ago, I observed a project manager with a long list of successful projects absolutely struggle with a project. As I looked around, I noticed that often times project managers who do superb jobs on some projects will fail on others. What causes this to happen? Why were project managers successful on some projects but struggling on others?
Even though all projects are by definition unique, there are attributesCharacteristic of an entity or object. that are common among projects that allow the characterization or profiling of a project. We can look at just two project attributes and develop some understanding of the project. A large project that will be executed in at least three locations will have a very different profile from a small project that will be executed in one location. These two attributes—size and location—provide information about the project that will enable a manager in the parent organization to assign a project manager with the appropriate knowledge and skills. We can then develop an execution approach to increase the likelihood of success.
Project managers have not always been assigned to projects based on their skills and the skills required by the project. Research by the Construction Industry InstituteConstruction Industry Institute, “Executive Summary,” RR103-11—Optimizing Project Organizations, 2009, https://www.construction-institute.org/scriptcontent/more/rr103_11_more.cfm (accessed June 18, 2009). indicated that the number one criterion for assignment of a project manager to a project was availability. Even if available, the ideal project manager for a large construction project may not be a good fit for a software development project. The technical knowledge needed to manage these projects is not the same and having the wrong technical knowledge may make the difference between a successful project and project failure.
Even within the same industry, like the construction industry, different skills are needed by the project manager for different projects. For example, the construction of an office building in downtown Philadelphia is a very different project from the construction of a chemical plant in Mexico. The differences in these projects require different skills and different execution approaches. Organizations have not had good tools for understanding and matching the needs of a project with the project manager who has the right skills and experience. Developing a project profile is one method for developing an understanding of the project that will allow a systematic approach to developing an execution plan based on the profile of the project and selecting a project manager who has the right kind of experience and skills.
Project profilingProcess of extracting a characterization from the known attributes of a project. is the process of extracting a characterization from the known attributes of a project. The characterization will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the project that should result in developing an appropriate execution approach and the assignment of organizational resources. In different terms, project profiling is a process that summarizes what is known about the attributes of a project and places the project into a category with other projects that have similar characteristics. For example, you can characterize a project as a large project or a small project. The size of the project becomes the profiling attribute. You can characterize a project as domestic or global, and the location of the project becomes the profiling characteristic.
A company that has twenty projects may determine that four of these projects are estimated to cost more than $1 million dollars and the remaining sixteen projects are estimated to cost much less. The company then communicates that all projects over $1 million be considered a large project. The company now establishes a rule that large projects will require a project manager with at least five years experience, it will have a vice president as executive sponsor, and it will require formal quarterly reports. In this example, one characteristic is used to develop the organization’s project management approach to their twenty projects.
Propose another attribute that might be used for project profiling besides budget size, location, and technical knowledge. Include the following in your answer: