Despite the positive impact good relationships have on project management, IT project managers rely more heavily on software and methodologies than on building relations when they need to improve their delivery. It's no wonder: Compared to the time it takes to build relationships, software seems like a quick fix. IT project managers are also most comfortable with tools.
"As IT professionals, we're raised on technology," says Ouellette & Associates' Hagerup. "Almost all the training we get throughout the years is about tools and processes."
Consequently, he adds, IT professionals think process and technology is the answer to everything, including effective project management. While project management frameworks and tools certainly help, projects are fundamentally people-driven, he says.
"When things go wrong [with a project], it's people who have done something that didn't work," says Hagerup. "Problems start with people and they end with people."
Yet project management training and certification programs are only just beginning to address the people-side of projects and the importance of relationship management. Most emphasize task management, according to Hagerup.
Thus, project management training and certification programs reinforce the idea that project management is glorified task management. That's an erroneous idea.
Hagerup estimates that a typical project manager spends 80 percent of his time on task management and 20 percent of his time on relationship management, but should be devoting more time to relationships.
"I would suggest that the more visible, big-budget the project, the greater the percentage of the project manager's time should be spent on relationship management," he says.
Agile Development Improves Relationships
Shaw Industries' Livingston is using Scrum, an agile software development practice, to improve relationships between IT and business partners and ensure project success.
[ Related: Agile, Friend or Foe to Project Management? ]
With Scrum, says Livingston, business partners meet with IT during a four- to eight-hour planning meeting to look at all the projects in the backlog and to jointly determine which one will bring the greatest value to Shaw Industries. IT then divides the project into sprints-30-day increments of work. When IT completes a sprint, business partners assess IT's progress and suggest any necessary changes.
"The agile development methodology, just by design, promotes better relationships," says Livingston. "Scrum and Agile force interaction [between IT and business partners] on a more frequent basis. By doing so, IT delivers solutions on an incremental basis to the business, as opposed to the waterfall method, where it's a year and a half before the business sees the fruits of an initiative."