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IT project management

3 Proven Approaches to IT Project Management

Are you a CEO or IT project manager looking to implement a significant change for a Houston business? There are many different management strategies and systems you could follow but certain approaches have been proven time and time again to deliver successful results.

This article highlights three of the methods that PennComp IT consultants draw upon when helping Houston businesses to plan and implement successful IT developments. These are lean management principles, the Six Sigma approach and the EOS® business system.

Together these trio of approaches pack a powerful punch when it comes to IT project management.

Adapting lean principles to IT Project Management

The concept of lean production originated in the post-war Japanese car manufacturing industry but has developed into a global management style applicable across industries and contexts.

Responding to a collapse in orders for military vehicles, engineer Taiichi Ohno helped create the Toyota Production System (TPS), a management system also known as Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing. Ohno had realised that vehicle production had to be closely tied to demand. He saw how each stage of the manufacturing process could be imagined as a supermarket with limited shelves. As components were used, this would create a pull on the previous stage so that materials were never wasted but supplied to order.

Elimination of waste was a core part of TPS and Ohno defined seven types of waste: waiting, overproduction, non-value added activity, excessive transportation, unnecessary motion, too-high inventory and product defects.

The TPS system was to become more generally known as lean manufacturing. Engineer and researcher John Krafcik coined this term in 1988 during his spell on the International Motor Vehicle Program at MIT. James Womack and Daniel Jones brought lean manufacturing to global attention with their book about the five year MIT study, The Machine That Changed The World.

Lean has since been adopted as a generic management system, used across sectors and business departments.

When implementing lean in IT project management, you need to understand the role IT plays in value generation and ensure that your project will improve value flow throughout the business.

Lean is innately customer-focused. IT projects should never be top-down drives imposed upon the company. They need to be rooted in customer demand with dedicated teams set up to continuously match development with demand. It is important to be in constant communication with those on the front line and to take their suggestions for improvement seriously.

Lean is also invested in the pursuit of perfection through gradual improvements. This principle was known as kaizen in the Toyota Production System. Assembly line workers were expected to stop the line whenever any abnormality was discovered, initiating a kaizen. The kaizen activity cycle is known as the PDCA after its four stages: plan, do, check, act.

Lean is a philosophy and management approach that covers every aspect of a business. A lean approach will be constantly focused on reducing the amount of equipment, time, space and effort needed to achieve exactly what the end user demands. Working efficiently and standardizing procedures are core concepts in the lean approach.

In your business, lean approaches could be used for individual projects, project management in general or as a guiding principle for an entire business.

Refining performance with Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a data-based approach to performance that can help IT project managers identify how they are performing within a statistically-defined range. It seeks to ensure the business is consistently achieving results at or around an expected target.

For example, imagine your IT project was to set up a new cloud-based hotel booking system to help improve and standardise the time taken to make a booking.

With Six Sigma, you could measure how long each booking is taking. This will enable you to calculate a mean time. Providing you are happy with that mean time (let’s say it’s one minute) you can then set an upper limit beyond which you want all bookings made (e.g. two minutes).

Without going into the math, the more consistent our booking process is, the smaller the standard deviation (sigma value) is. You then calculate how many standard deviations you can afford before you exceed your maximum value. If you can only ‘fit’ two to three standard deviations before exceeding the maximum, you have a two or three sigma booking process. In the example above, if your standard deviation is 20 seconds, you have a three sigma process.

The goal, as the concept name suggests, is to perfect your booking process until you have a six sigma process. Reducing your deviation to 10 seconds through a better IT system would mean you now have a six sigma process.
That may not sound that impressive but, assuming your process follows a normal distribution curve, this also means that 99.9997% of bookings are made within two minutes.

Many businesses combine Lean and Six Sigma processes into the ‘Lean Six Sigma’ approach.

Using EOS concepts

Having the support of simple and powerful business management systems and tools will greatly aid any IT project. One such management system is the Enterprise Operating System® (EOS).

The EOS comprises easy to implement concepts broken down into six separate components (vision, people, data, issues, process and traction).

Here is a brief summary of those elements as they apply to IT Project Management:

  • Vision. This is focused on getting everyone in the business on board with the new IT project. Everyone needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet.
  • People. Any IT project is possible with the right people in the right roles so it’s worth spending time setting up your project team.
  • Data. Progress becomes much easier to measure and improve when feelings and ideas are converted into cold, hard numbers.
  • Issues. Your IT project will hit roadblocks. Successful project management teams know how to identify, attack and destroy obstacles.
  • Process. This is the special ingredient that enables you to identify and replicate ‘what works’ so you can use these systems across projects.
  • Traction. This is that vital step of making sure you deliver results when the rubber hits the road.

The EOS also includes free business tools and the Traction® resource library where businesses can order books for more in-depth understanding.
For the purposes of this article, EOS concepts help project managers set up systems for permanent ongoing improvement and to locate the root of any problems that are limiting the effectiveness of their project.

Bringing it together with PennComp IT Project Management

To make the most out of these three popular management concepts you would benefit from the support of a team of professional consultants with years of hands-on experience in IT Project Management.

The unique PennComp project management methodology is split into four phases: project definition and requirements gathering; project planning; project management and control and the project close.

Our approach takes the best of the concepts and practices detailed in this article and integrates them into a transparent, results-driven approach that will set your project up for success. We have worked on a variety of complex technology projects so we know we can help to guide and support you.

Contact PennComp today to start planning your next IT Project Management journey.