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Executive's Guide to Project Management: Organizational Processes and Practices for Supporting Complex Projects by Robert K. Wysocki

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An Historical Perspective1

The birth of the information age in the 1950s planted the seeds that would quickly give rise to a contention between the business sides and the technical sides of an enterprise. It originally arose out of:

  • Ignorance of the other's domain
  • Lack of a common language
  • Lack of meaningful client involvement

The contention has changed over the years but persists to this day. Unfortunately it has a harmful effect on complex project risk and contributes to the high rate of complex project failure. A few words about each will be useful.

Ignorance of the Other's Domain

It wasn't too long ago that the “throw it over the wall” mentality was pervasive. What today is called a project wasn't recognized as such in a stovepipe organization. Each business function did its part and passed the effort on to the next business function in the process. The four disciplines were practiced pretty much independently of one another. There was no collaboration. No one functioned as the overseer so there was no control over the total effort. Projects were poorly defined if at all. Failure was almost a certainty. Fortunately that has changed and the business environment of today is characterized by multidisciplinary teams working together on the same project. Collaboration is still a complex issue though and is discussed in more detail in what follows.

Over the past 60 years we have seen the emergence and maturation of the systems analyst from a high-tech professional housed in the ...

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