know, you already understand everything there is to know about project
management. Perhaps. Perhaps not. As part of the IT community (you did
know that GIS was part of the IT community, didn’t you?), we often
think that because we finished a project, we managed it. More often than
not, the project probably managed you.
To see if you need to learn any more about
project management, ask yourself these simple questions:
recite the objectives?
review the objectives and progress weekly?
staff have input and agreement on these goals?
objectives be measured, or at least noticed when they are met? For
example, were you asked to make images appear faster, or were you
asked to render images 20% faster?
discuss objectives and progress with your manager more than monthly?
frequently miss deadlines?
meet all deadlines and objectives, without fail, or adjustment?
find it hard to leave work on time, take a vacation, or stay away
from the office on Saturday? Do your kids call you Uncle Daddy (Aunt
team members think they have the resources and time to finish the
project as expected?
Project Management for Dummies
The "Dummies" series has been
quite a success, with titles ranging from Siberian Huskies For Dummies®
(did you miss that one?) to the ever exciting MCSE Windows® 2000
Server For Dummies® . I must confess that I have spent more
time reading the series while standing in the aisle in
Books-a-Million than I have purchased, but at least I am reading them.
Recently, I had a chance to read
Management For Dummies ® by Stanley E. Portny.
According to his bio, " Stanley Portny is an internationally
recognized expert in planning and management of programs and projects.
Portny has provided training to more than 20,000 people in over 100
organizations and federal government agencies including AT&T, Bank
of Boston, the Department of Defense, Hewlett Packard and Honeywell,
Inc. He has been certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) by
the Project Management Institute."
If there is a common thread in the Dummies series, it is that the books
are written by experts in the field, and are edited with a fine tooth
comb. The writing is clear, and easy to follow. Usually, the books are
organized in such a logical order, it is nearly impossible to give in to
the temptation of skipping around from chapter to chapter.
What struck me immediately about Project Management for Dummies was how simple
Portny makes a
very complex topic. For example, right off the bat he lists the
ingredients to a project, be it large or small:
outcomes: Products or results
start and end dates: Dates when project work begins and when it
budgets: Required amounts of people, funds, equipment,
facilities, and information."
Does this sound too simple for you? It shouldn’t be, unless you truly
are a project management expert. But, let’s look at these project
ingredients a little closer.
In my experience, this is the biggest omission in most
in-house projects. For some reason, when an outside vendor is hired,
everyone wants to hold the vendor’s feet to the fire. But, when
the project is done internally, no one really wants to define
success, because that means that you also define failure.
Start and End Dates
This phrase defines the difference between a process and a project.
Too often there are no hard endings to projects and they soon move
past the project stage, right through the process stage, and into
the career stage. Just look around the GIS community and see how
many people have been working on their project for over five years.
The answer will startle you.
Budgets If you
haven’t established specific outcomes, and definite start and end
dates, how on earth do you establish a budget? Budgets are often
looked upon as some abstract finance committee requirement. Portny is
here to tell you that budgets are an important ingredient to a
The rest of the book then shows you how to achieve the success you so
richly deserve. Portny takes you through how to organize the project, track
progress, using experience and technology, and so on. Part V of the book
is called "The Part of Tens". Each chapter asks ten important
question, or provides steps and tips to manage the project. Work your
way to Appendix B, and you will be treated to some solid analytical
Dummy or not, if you manage a project or want to manage a project, go
get this book today.
This review appears in Volume 24, Number 1 of The Harlow Report -
Geographic Information Systems. Established in 1978 by Chris
Harlow, the Harlow Report - GIS is a newsletter with an
international distribution. The complete text of this review, as
well as other interesting articles and information, can be seen at