Essay: Information Technology an Effective Project Manager Needs

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Information Technology

An effective project manager needs a variety of both technical and business skill sets. Discuss the non-technical skills that have been associated with superior project management.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that working on information technology projects requires both hard which is technical and soft which is non-technical skills. This is especially required for IT professionals on the verge of stepping into managerial roles. According to Belzer, soft skills is an art which is not only involved with managing people and ensuring customer satisfaction but it also involves establishing an appropriate environment in which the project team members can create products of the highest quality on time and within the agreed budget. Superior project management requires a varied assortment of soft skills related to business expertise and personal attributes which range from leadership skills, team-building skills, communication skills, stress and conflict handling capability, creativity and flexibility skills, communication skills and so on. A number of experts have identified the failure to communicate as one of the biggest threats to the success of information technology projects. (Schwalbe, 2009); (Stone, 2010); Cohen, 2005)

Communication skills involve acquiring the ability to put across suggestions and ideas clearly and logically so as to steer the project team towards the desired objectives. It is important that this communication be a two-way process. In recent years, many project managers have embraced NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming for establishing successful communication channels within the project team. Team-building is also an important component of soft skills for building up the ideal team with the right mix of skills which can produce results that surpass expectations. A project manager must have the capability to adapt to the unique needs that every project demands. This requires a great deal of creativity along with flexibility in order to achieve the right mix of tools, techniques, templates and components. Leadership skills are also of immense importance as it has the ability to motivate ordinary team members to produce extraordinary performance through the right decisions and motivational techniques. (Schwalbe, 2009); (Stone, 2010); Cohen, 2005)

2. Although projects vary by size, scope, time duration, and uniqueness: most projects share three life cycle characteristics. What are these characteristics?

One of the most common life cycle models followed for information systems project development is the SDLC -- Systems Development Life Cycle which follows a sequential system in which the stages pass through a logical sequence. Irrespective of the unique characteristics possessed by every project, there are some common phases each project must pass through. These are planning, analysis, design, implementation, and maintenance and support. Among these planning, design and implementation phases are most common to all projects. (Brown; DeHayes; Hoffer; Martin; Perkins, 2009); (Marchewka, 2006)

Planning activities include identifying and reacting to an opportunity or problem and going through a formal process which involves determining whether the goal, budget, schedule, scope, technology and tools are available. The design phase involves using the logical models and requirements to design an architecture that matches the new information system to be developed. This would involve determining the hardware configuration, network design, databases, application programs and user interfaces. The implementation phase is basically the production phase and involves translating the design into executable code in the language or platform decided upon in the design phase. (Brown; DeHayes; Hoffer; Martin; Perkins, 2009); (Marchewka, 2006)

3. What are SLAs and how can they be used by IS managers?

Accountability is a major responsibility of an organization. It is not just associated with quality performance but is also linked in turn with adherence to norms, prevention of punishment, and rewards. Service level agreements -- SLAs are basically the expression of IS accountability. The performance criteria of each operations area is outlined in the SLAs. SLA contains targets, policies, processes and procedures for every operations area. It lays down the metrics that the IT teams utilize to track performance. It is basically the document that defines the boundaries and framework of every performance metric that a business requires. IS managers must involve themselves in "active impression management" and for doing so they must project a desirable self-image for their own IS department as well as other departments through the following images -- being cooperative, having empathy and real concern for others and having open channels of communication. (Beard, 1996); (Baschab; Piot; Carr, 2007)

SLAs support and display all these dimensions. 'Information System' managers have to cultivate themselves not only as support staff to other departments but also project them with a desirable self-image. SLAs can be helpful in this regard as a mechanism by which a positive working relationship can be developed. Since the IS departments are increasingly becoming customer and service oriented, they must proactively cultivate their image of fairness and competence so as to have a long-term and efficient relationship with their clients within the organization itself. IS managers often create and use a "dashboard" consisting of one or more chief metrics extracted from the SLA for specific IT processes. IS managers can use such one-page dashboards for better efficiency and ensure adherence to quality norms as agreed by cooperation between the business units and IS department. (Beard, 1996); (Baschab; Piot; Carr, 2007)

4. What is the purpose and role of an IS steering committee or advisory board?

An IS steering committee is set up with the aim of establishing efficient information systems governance. It is a value add-activity which benefits not only the IT organization but also the entire organization. A steering committee supervises and approves all kinds of changes occurring in the production systems. A steering committee is usually made up of business owners, senior managers and senior staff members of the IT department. Proposals from several business units, project teams and IT development areas are received by the steering committee for conducting reviews and pass for approval. The steering committee, after due consideration of the budget, business requirements and availability of resources, brings out the final verdict regarding approval, termination or postponement of a project. (Tipton; Krause, 2008); ("IT Steering Committee: Advocate or Adversary?," 2005); (Brotby, 2009)

It is essential for a steering committee to have specific responsibilities and a charter in order to be effective. The responsibility areas include strategic alignment such as assisting and reviewing security strategy and integration efforts, risk management such as distinguishing potential risks, identifying compliance issues, promoting security practices, value delivery such as providing advise on satisfactoriness of security practices and delivering value related to enabled services, performance measurement such as ensuring that security practices are in line with business objectives, integration such as reviewing the practices for knowledge capture and distribution and resource management such as isolating vital business processes and assuring integration efforts. (Tipton; Krause, 2008); ("IT Steering Committee: Advocate or Adversary?," 2005); (Brotby, 2009)

5. Explain how a "cookie" works. What are the advantages and disadvantages to you?

A cookie can be described as a small piece of temporary information stored in the form of a file on the client's computer or in memory during a client session. A cookie is dispatched from a web server to be stored in a web browser. This small amount of data can be read back by the web server in future sessions to provide better customized services. Cookies may be used to store user-specific information like user-names, passwords, user preferences, start page preferences, site personalization, online ordering information etc. Use of cookies is advantageous in a number of ways. Firstly, cookies can be used to serve users in a much more efficient manner and a user need not fill in the same information each and every time the same web site like an online store or order form is accessed since it stores user preferences. Secondly, cookies do not entail using up of server resources simply because they are stored on the client end and not on the server. (Henry, 2005); (Evjen; Beres; Et Al, 2001); (Cookie Central, 2010)

Thirdly, settings can be suitably altered so as to expire on a specific date or when the browser is shut down. Finally, cookies utilize minimal disk space making them lightweight. However, they have a few disadvantages as well. The fact that cookies are lightweight, usually with a 4096-byte limit is also a disadvantage since the web server cannot store all the information that would have made the transactions even more efficient. Again, the fact that cookies can be customized by user is also a disadvantage since a customer has the freedom to totally disable the use of cookies in which case web servers which use cookies may not be able to provide full functionality to the user. Another negative aspect of using cookies is that hackers may steal the cookie key and access vital account information and utilize it wrongly. It is also possible for a web site to access the information stored in a cookie sent by some other web site. (Henry, 2005); (Evjen; Beres; Et Al, 2001); (Cookie Central, 2010)

6. What are four precautions an individual take to reduce the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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