New Faculty Perspective on Effective, Efficient and Impassioned Project Management Approaches – by Michael A. Erskine, Ph.D.

 Dr. Michael is a new Assistant Professor in the CIS department that teaches web development and project management. 

Dr. Michael is a new Assistant Professor in the CIS department that teaches web development and project management. 

The value of effective project management has never been clearer. Effective project management is a top priority for Fortune 500 organizations, and even small technology organizations have adopted approaches to managing entire portfolios of projects – projects that may integrate to create powerful change when completed, but also projects that compete for resources today. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics opportunities for IT project managers will grow 12%, adding over 40,000 positions, through 2026. Furthermore, IT project management can be lucrative with an entry-level salary of $70,000 and a median pay of $135,800. Finally, as with most tech jobs, skills are portable across the globe. And that’s further good news as it is estimated that globally there will be a need for 87.7 million project managers by 2027 across all sectors.

While IT project management approaches have been applied – and academia has studied IT project management – for five decades, many IT projects continue to fail. An IBM Systems article suggested that 25% of technology projects fail outright, while 50% usually require massive rework by the time they are delivered. Surprisingly the reasons for such failures are not frequently attributed to budget constraints, insufficient technical talent or even rapidly changing technologies. In fact, 54% of the time the failures are attributed to ineffective project management.

This doesn’t suggest that today’s project managers haven’t been trained or that best-practices have yet to be established. In fact, certifications are offered by a variety of organizations including the Project Management Institute (PMI), the Scrum Alliance and the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Organizations have spent decades developing such standards and there are currently close to 800,000 PMP-certified individuals globally, and over 5 million copies of the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge have been distributed. Finally, corporate training organizations, free and for-profit online programs, and many universities have developed numerous project management professionals.

So, you might be wondering, why – with such knowledge and training opportunities - are so many IT projects failing. Such failures are often attributed to ignoring fundamentals of effective project management. These fundamentals include applying effective leadership practices, developing consistent and clear communication practices, maintaining accountability, and – perhaps most important – defining and garnering agreement toward unambiguous and measurable project outcomes.

This is why I am thrilled to be teaching MTSU’s INFS6500 course. In this course, we are free to explore these topics in a myriad of ways. First, the principles of project management are examined using principles of andragogy – allowing learners to direct the learning sequence, with a focus on drawing from shared experiences, and considering immediate applicability. Next, problem-based learning approaches are used to examine every-day, messy IT project management problems, in engaging, fun and collaborative ways. Moreover, learners are given an opportunity to become an expert on a specific project management topic through iterative research and feedback cycles, using self-led, inquiry-based, discovery-learning methods. Finally, humanistic approaches are used to continuously define and refine individual leadership styles and to develop a mindfulness of one’s leadership self.

As a firm believer that any motivated learner can become an effective project manager, INFS6500 learners will have opportunities to develop invaluable project management skills, gain insightful project management knowledge, feel confident selecting effective planning and implementation tools, and be prepared to understand multiple project stakeholder perspectives. Best of all, MTSU graduate students seeking a MS in Information Systems with a concentration in IT Project Management will be exposed to two valuable, and complementary concentration courses that explore risk assessment and control (INFS 6510) as well as IT project case studies (INFS6520).

I look forward to exploring IT project management with MTSU’s students, industry representatives and academic colleagues.

Charles Apigian