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SmartAdvice: Match Project Tools With Business Objectives And Company Culture

Project-management tools can offer real help for delivering projects on spec, on time, and on budget, The Advisory Council says. Also, RFID can help your bottom line if you use feedback promptly.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers two questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to

Question A: There are so many project management methodologies and software tools available, how do I know which ones would be best for my needs?

Our advice: Commonly quoted statistics are that more than 70% of all projects are deemed at least partial failures due to some major defect: late product delivery, failure to meet budget, missing major features, or delivered functions not performing as promised. Enterprises have embraced a variety of methodologies and software to improve delivery of quality software, including:

  • Project Management Institute (PMI) -- A project management organization and methodology originally focused on construction projects
  • Capability Maturity Model (CMM) -- A software-development assessment methodology
  • Six Sigma -- A methodology developed for improving manufacturing processes
  • Executives originally embraced these tools because they hoped that the tools would be "magic bullets" to make their projects and organizations compliant with quality objectives, government regulations, and project-management standards. For some companies, the magical thinking went even further, and program managers made the mistake of assuming that just by implementing one of the more comprehensive project-management or software-development tools, without taking the time and effort to make the required organizational changes, their projects would all become more productive and standards compliant. Sadly, as many program managers have found to their peril, any tool, be it for managing a software project or building a bookcase, must be chosen carefully. Optimum project success can only be achieved if the proper tool is used appropriately.

    Related Links

    Project Management Institute

    Capability Maturity Model Integration


    Open and Free Project Management Tools

    To maximize the prospect of success, focus on matching the tool with business objectives and company culture. The first step in this process is to determine the real business objectives you want to achieve. If the objective is to deliver the project quickly, then the tools and methodologies required will be very different than if the objective is to deliver a highly robust product. Understanding what these methodologies require can help you choose which practices are appropriate for you project and/or organization. Remember, despite the hype that each project-management methodology's promoters might like you to believe, you don't have use every single standard and method discussed by PMI, Six Sigma, CMM, etc. If you're searching for methodologies for running a general business project, consider the PMI standards found in the Project Management Body of Knowledge. For projects requiring exacting product quality standards, CMM, and/or Six Sigma are good places to start.

    No matter what methodology you ultimately chose, it's important to understand what each methodology is trying to achieve, so that you can select standards that make sense in the context of your organization and project. Project-management tools can offer real help for delivering projects on spec, on time, and on budget, but only if the right methodology is chosen with a matching tool.

    -- Beth Cohen and Sue-Rae Rosenfeld

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