Project Management in iSeries Shops

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The time for iSeries project management is now. Projects must be managed in order to be successful, but project management is a level of activity that many small to medium iSeries shops do not have the funding or the skill to achieve. Consequently, the vast majority of iSeries shops that I've gone into (with the exception of some larger iSeries shops) seem to be completely lacking in any level of formalized project management.


But what is project management? Project management is the act of planning and organizing tasks, people, and other resources to realize a goal. Project management involves managing the overall project plan, breaking the project into a task list, scheduling the tasks, assigning the tasks to developers, and communicating with corporate management, developers, and end-users on the progress of the plan--all the while making sure that the project's team remains focused on the original goal and doesn't allow the project to wander off on tangents.


A project plan can be as simple as a requirements list with a start and finish time estimated by the developer, or it can be as big as thousands and thousands of tasks costing millions of dollars. In some cases, too much project planning can actually stifle development--waiting for an overdue project plan to be completed before starting a project can often lead to unnecessary expense and frustration. Consequently, many iSeries shops simply use a requirements list as a de facto project plan.


Some organizations have a project planner (the person who builds a project plan) and a project manager (the person who manages the project plan's implementation). Most however, assign these roles to the same individual.


Project management is essentially based on the principle of the "Project Triangle." The project triangle consists of the three components of a project plane: schedule, budget, and scope. Each element impacts the other two. So changing, for example, the scope of the project will impact the completion date (schedule) and the cost (budget). Naturally, everyone wants their project to be inexpensive, fast, and perfect. Some old-time project managers say that you can only have two of the three legs of the triangle, so that's something to consider right up front. You want it cheap and fast? Then you're going to sacrifice scope.


It is every IT manager's responsibility to have at least some cursory knowledge of project planning and management. The ability to understand project management charts and diagrams would be extremely helpful. For example, would you be able to read or create any of these project management charts or reports? Do you even know what they are?

  • Task Duration Report
  • Gantt Chart
  • Resource Graph
  • Milestone Report

These are fundamental reports of a project manager.


I'm not advocating that every iSeries shop needs to implement a rigid, formalized project planning and management process. But I am suggesting that all iSeries shop managers need to have at least a working knowledge of project management. And they all should be able to read and generate a Gantt chart, which is simply a project timeline. (To learn more about Gantt charts, read the brief University of Minnesota School of Mechanical Engineering tutorial.)


Midrange Developer's sister publication, MCMagOnline, agrees that the issue of project management must be addressed and is running a series of articles on the subject. To see the first article, go to "Does Project Management Certification Really Make a Difference?"

Using project management skill, to me, is the only way to handle the seemingly endless supply of requirements. Simply keeping a list of requirements and who requested them and then (eventually) assigning them to a developer is not good project management.