Submitted for publication by Email, February 19, 2009 © Robert Goatham & Calleam Consulting Ltd.
Published here April 2009.

Introduction | Projects From First Principles | Compounding the Challenge
Onion Rings | Experts and Expertise | Barriers to Developing Expertise | Conclusion

Compounding the Challenge

IT projects cannot claim to be the only decision centric projects and many other types of project fall into the same class. Designing a new car or designing a building represents other examples. There are however a number of factors that make decision-making in the IT sector particularly tricky:

  1. IT projects usually involve many individuals and as a result the decision-making is often heavily decentralized across the team.
  2. Many decisions are subjective and there are no definitively right or wrong answers.
  3. Most decisions lack the physical attributes that more readily lend themselves to visualization, verification and communication (such as height, depth, breadth and mass).
  4. People with diverse paradigms and perspectives need to work together. Those differing backgrounds compound the difficulty of communicating effectively.
  5. Many decisions in an IT project involve significant uncertainty.
  6. The decisions are often mutually dependent. A decision in one part of the project can have implications across many other parts of the project.

The high number of decisions made in a typical IT project, and the complex interactions and dependencies that exist between those decisions, represents many magnitudes of complexity beyond the simple representation of a project captured in a Gantt chart. So we must put aside the task centric simplification that has become the standard view of a project. Then we can say that the fundamental problem that makes managing an IT project so hard to do can be encapsulated by the question: "How do we manage a large scale, complex, decentralized, decision-making activity?"

 Projects From First Principles    Projects From First Principles

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