IT Project Management: Is Experience Overrated?

Experienced project managers have accumulated a store of shortcuts, workarounds and "accelerators" that may have served them once or twice in different circumstances. These generally won't add anything to a complex, challenging situation, where attention to detail and sticking with the basics is what builds success.

Here is a true story from close to home for me - it involves my niece Angie and the benefits of bringing a young, fresh view to a complex problem.

Angie is an experienced business analyst, working her way into project management. She's invested her own time and money over a decade in climbing the technology world's career ladder from user support to team lead.

She'll be a great project manager one day, but she's low on experience right now. And many of us believe that experience is one of the things that PMs need to avoid the pitfalls that surround all but the most straightforward projects.

Recently, Angie and an equally inexperienced colleague were asked to take on a project that had all the characteristics of a disaster in the making. Their organization was planning a "rip and replace" for a key application that would touch a lot of people, both internal and external. The project involved all the classic areas for potential problems:

  • Vendor swap.

  • Platform change.

  • Complex integration.

  • Aggressive schedule.

  • Limited budget.

Oh, and let's not forget the company's previous experience trying similar things, which was uniformly bad.

Experienced project managers would have run in the other direction.

Angie and her colleague knew they were taking on a difficult project. There was no way to expect it to be easy, and it wasn't. However, they also knew that they didn't have enough experience to do anything other than to precisely follow the proverbial playbook, in detail. So they did exactly that. No cutting corners. No shortcuts. I'd be willing to bet they annoyed some (maybe many) of their co-workers along the way.

This article was originally published on 04-25-2012
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