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The IT Project Management Answer Book by David Pratt Management Concepts Press, 2012, ISBN: 9781567263770, paperback, 191 pp., $42.75 Member, $45.00 Nonmember.

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Kenneth H. Rose, PMP, Book Review Editor

IT projects have earned an enduring reputation for underperformance. The pressure for successful delivery is ratcheted up by constrained schedules and budgets resulting from a depressed economy, underperforming organizations, anxious stakeholders, and shareholders eager for the results. Yet, many IT projects appear to be repeating the mistakes of the past and falling into the same old traps. It is becoming increasingly clear that new approaches for training and developing IT project managers are needed, and that directing such projects will lead to new concepts and ideas about the management of projects. This review will begin by addressing the former and return to the latter in the concluding section.

Given that the traditional bodies of knowledge have little to say about specific disciplinary concerns, the need for insights in those areas is becoming increasingly more acute. IT project managers have struggled to deliver and may be looking for answers. The idea behind The IT Project Management Answer Book by David Pratt is to provide a sourcebook of useful questions with matching answers; it is intended to inform, advise, and direct IT project managers; and to provide a new kind of resource to support managers.

The intention makes a lot of sense. Indeed, most online websites are likely to include frequently asked questions; hence, the format offered by the book should be familiar. The book is comprised of over 150 questions grouped into chapters focused on why projects succeed, organizing for success, project initiation, and other activities around the life of an IT project. In common with many IT projects, the success of an educational effort often hinges on the revelation that the devil is in the details. Compiling a collection of questions and answers relies on clear identification of the audience and its concerns. This book does not identify the intended audience upfront.

One of the initial questions queries if general project management experience is sufficient to manage an IT project. The author contends that in order to succeed, managers must have an appreciation of the industry in which the IT project is positioned. Many of the subsequent questions explore the tools and techniques of project management, and the various steps and technical activities involved in IT from acceptance tests and configuration management, to meetings, logical data models, and database design. The mix of technical with basic management skills again rekindles the question of the target audience: Given the expectation of domain knowledge, the book is unlikely to be aimed at project managers, who will seek a more detailed discussion. Junior team members seeking advice and basic understanding are probably more likely to benefit from this resource. The style of writing is simple and straightforward and hence suitable for general FAQ-type questions.

Considering the focus on IT project failure in the early part of the book, the absence of risk management until the penultimate chapter is disappointing. Risk management could have provided a useful framework for a lot of the content. Cost and effort estimation are not featured, because the chapter on project planning covers only business architecture, test planning, and database design.

Improved management approaches, especially those currently trendy in IT, are not sufficiently addressed. While there is a very brief mention of agile approaches for delivery, the managerial aspects of agile development are ignored. Other terms, such as maturity models, do not even feature in the index; hence the need to address new ideas and concepts is somewhat lacking.

The book does answer a rather eclectic assembly of questions at a relatively rudimentary level. It provides a resource for team members, but given the increasing reliance on online resources, it is likely that many of the answers are available on the Internet.

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Reviewed by Darren Dalcher, PhD, PMP, who holds a chair in Project Management at the University of Hertfordshire and is director of the National Centre for Project Management in the United Kingdom.