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Table of Contents

Optimizing information and communication technology (ICT) project life cycles (PLC) in developed countries with a focus on Qatar and the middle east - Part 2


Chapter 1. IT and Qatar

Qatar is located on a peninsula, which reaches into the Persian Gulf and is bordered to the South by Saudi Arabia. It is located on the edge of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. The population as of July 2012 has been estimated to be 1,951,591 people. (World 2012) The age demographic has shown that the largest numbers of citizens are of working age. Seventy six percent of the total population is from 15 to 64 years old; 460,673 are male and 189,914 are female. (World 2012) The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported in July 2012 that Qatar could expect approximately a 5.5 percent growth rate for the rest of 2012. Not only that the IMF quarterly economic forecast revision stated that “in contrast with the broad trends (worldwide), growth in the Middle East and North Africa will be stronger in 2012-13 relative to last year” (Ahram 2012). This is especially good news for Qatar because “Qatar’s economy grew by 19 percent in 2011” (Reuters 2011). In addition, the IMF has charged Qatar with “reducing its fiscal dependence on the hydrocarbon sector by 2020 (Reuters 2011). Qatar’s successful economic growth rate and large working-age population demonstrate a good working environment potential for Information Technology (IT) potential. IT companies ranging in size from small, medium to large have been established. Those companies are fulfilling the market niche and they are making good profits. Yet many projects go wrong, for many reasons they end with failure instead of success. Usually the reasons given to explain project failures have been based on mismanagement issues.

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The objective of this research is to investigate companies’ development of IT projects in order to evaluate their project management processes. The purpose of the evaluations has been to give a clear understanding about the management of those projects. The IT projects cycle will be inspected in order to give overview understanding and feedback how to improve the cycle. The research has been accomplished by conducting interviews with the key professionals at IT companies in order to understand the project cycle in individual companies. Moreover, interviews have been conducted with clients who outsources IT services and who benefit from IT services provided by these companies. This research has offered a glance at IT Research and Development (R&D) projects going on in Qatar. The thesis of this research has been that certain constraints on the IT projects are (a) resources, (b) risk, and (c) scope are leading to the failures experienced by Qatari companies. Hypothesis 1: The IT project processes used are not appropriate; Project Management Implementation (PMI) and Projects IN Controlled Environments (Prince2) methodologies would be far more applicable. Hypothesis 2: An ‘agile’ (or iterative) management approach with an emphasis on innovation would be a beneficial.

1.1. Summary of Chapters

  • Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the business environment in Qatar, the objective of this research and the methodology used to evaluate the problem of project management successes and failures.
  • Chapter 2 is a review of the applicable literature starting with an explanation of the six factors of the hexagonal approach, the human factor, causes of failures and successes, and projects that have been saved from failure. Other topics central to the issue of IT/ICT project management are included.
  • Chapter 3 is a discussion of the qualitative methodology used in this research. Project managers rely on IT/ICT so the situation in Qatar is examined by using a Literature Review and a survey of Qatari professionals. The role of stakeholders is evaluated and the survey questions are shared. The profiles of potential interviewees are offered in this chapter.
  • Chapter 4 provides the results of the survey of Qatari professionals. The answers shared by the professionals are compared and contrasted.
  • Chapter 5 is the conclusion of the research. The best advice found on project management in the literature is discussed as well as the thesis and the original hypotheses.

1.2. Conclusion

This chapter introduced the country of Qatar to the reader and discussed its standing in global business. Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world and offers a great potential in developing a strong, successful IT/ICT industry. The research objective of understanding Project Life Cycles in developed countries specifically for the optimization of information sharing and good communication was more fully explained. The thesis that there are constraints on Qatari IT projects was set forward. The hypotheses that suggested that more appropriate project processes are available and should be used were shared.

Chapter 2. Literature Review

The people (developers, engineers, computer scientists and technicians) that create and run the systems are the most important resource for the IT industry. They are the human factor and they are the greatest strength of the IT industry. On the other hand, the human factor has sometimes been its weakest point as well. Project cycle weaknesses discussed in the literature including the human factor have been explored in this paper. Examples have been included of some project’s failures in particular those due to the constraints of (a) resources, (b) risk and (c) scope. These three constraints have been carefully examined. In fact, all six factors of the hexagonal approach have been considered. This review also includes some of the remedies that have been used to turn failing projects into successful projects. Recommendations from the literature for maintaining a project successfully to finish have been shared.

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This literature review has been created in order to determine the reasons that IT projects fail. The success or failure of a project has been considered a judgement call; in other words, there are no clear definitions for success or for failure. (Standish 1999; Milis& Mercken 2004; Al Neimat 2005; Bakker et al. 2010; MS 2010)The PM’s job is to bring a project to success; or it is the PM’s responsibility if the project fails. A PM’s job starts before the project officially begins. The initiation of a project before the team’s start date is essential. Initiating a project requires gathering the appropriate resources. The appropriate resources include the human factor, the appropriate team members. The Scope Document should have been finalized before the official start of a project. The PM must also calculate risk with the input of other stakeholders. The amount of risk should have been evaluated in reference to the impact of the risk. In this way, the PM can take steps to minimize risk. Interestingly PMs have disregarded risk more than any other character. Even though the risk associated with a) changes in the project and b) the quality of a manager’s leadership capabilities can have a profound effect on the IT project’s process and outcome. (Frese & Sauter 2003; Dorsey 2000; Oiaga 2007; Kozak-Holland 2009)

The Hexagonal approach to project management takes into account six factors. The six factors are (a) time, (b) budget, (c) quality, (d) scope, (e) resources, and (f) risk. The Hexagonal approach also takes into account the complex details involved in undertaking an IT/ICT project. Time, cost and quality have been reported as easier to quantify then scope, risk and resources, but all are essential ingredients of an IT project. By optimizing these six characteristics, a project’s commitment should be fulfilled appropriately. (Siegelaub 2009; Stiffler 2011)

Historically the ‘Iron Triangle’ which includes time, cost and quality at each point of the triangle, was thought to be the most useful tool for measurement, but management of a project is also about how to manage the other factors as well. (Siegelaub 2009; Stiffler 2011) Many publications indicated that resources should be part of the triangle, because resources may act as a constraint to a project. (Ambler 2011; Atkinson 1999; Morris & Sember 2008) Resources may become a risk and if not managed effectively can lead to failure. Resources are part of the soft component of any project. The above reasons explain the necessity of considering resources a major component needing management. (Ambler 2011; Atkinson 1999; Morris & Sember 2008) Therefore, it is a factor included in the Hexagonal approach.

“Defining and refining objectives and selecting the best course of action” (MS, 2010) have been cited as the foundation for a successful project. No IT project must assume that changes in the planning steps will be necessary during the process. A project manager must be able to handle change and manage its repercussions. A characteristic of the ability to handle change has been discussed in terms of Agile methodology below. Project software, which has been maintained with timely data input, has made a PM’s job much easier because entering data on the resources used and on tasks completed automatically constructs a new Gantt graph, which can be compared with the Critical Path. The software has been used to alert the PM to possible problems so that the problem can be solved before there has been a bad impact on the project. In fact, all the IT project processes can be more easily managed, monitored and adjusted with the use of integrated software that has been designed for this express purpose. (MS, 2010

Al Neimat (2005) has pointed out that as business environments have become more complex and communications have become more rapid – IT has been a “major driver” which has caused those two characteristics. IT could also be a solution to help overcome the problems that arise from the complexities of business enterprises and the influx of more information at a faster rate. Unfortunately, too many failed projects have not shown IT to be used with success at a consistent rate. On the contrary, Al Neimat (2005) has discussed the reasons projects fail based on the 2001 Standish Group International’s study of 30,000 American companies’ IT application projects. Unfortunately, between 1994 and 2000 fewer successful projects finished compared to failed and challenged projects. Challenged projects are considered projects, which have been “completed and are operational but over-budget, over the time estimate, and with fewer features” (Standish 1999).

Milis and Mercken (2003) suggest strategies for evaluating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) projects. They researched the popular use of “capital investment appraisal techniques (CIAT’s) such as payback period or net present value” to determine their appropriateness for measures of success (87). Their concerns have been based on internal characteristics of which may not give an accurate outcome. Especially the problem of hidden costs can make results less reliable. The researchers have directly stated “the record on measuring and controlling ICT investments has not been impressive” (87). Therefore the purpose of their research was to determine which type of “feasibility evaluation” that has been the most reliable (Milis & Mercken 2003 87). The researchers used a balanced score card methodology which is constructed from four groups of measurable variables. The four groups have been considered on the following scorecards (a) the financial, (b) customer, (c) internal business, and (d) the “innovation and learning” (Milis & Mercken 2003 94). Their conclusion determined that no one alternative was shown to be reliable all the time. The researchers strongly suggested using more than one technique which they call the “multi-layer evaluation, the balanced scorecard” method (Milis & Mercken 2003 96).

Reyck (et al. 2005) has researched the impact of project portfolio management (PPM) on IT projects. They researched this because of the trend to have more than one project being carried out at one time in a company. The purpose of the research was to determine if companies assume their projects are discrete from each other or if the projects form a group of related investments. Another purpose was to understand companies’ attitude towards the value of using one or the other of these assumptions. The PM has been used PPM as a tool to automate and help managers with software applications to alleviate some of the manager’s tasks during the process of an IT project. The researchers noted that the information in literature is usually from the PPM software developers and has included only anecdotal information not empirical data. The research was carried out to evaluate the correlation between PPM use with project and portfolio increased positive performance. The methodology used by Reyck (et al. 2005) was to do literature reviews on two topics (a) the history of portfolio management and (b) five traditional PPM development themes. Those five themes are “the PPM objectives and scope, the pre-conditions for PPM, the key elements of PPM, the impact on organisations and the problems with organizational associated with a lack of PPM processes” (Reyck et al. 2005 537). The researchers used a survey methodology (evaluating questionnaires from 34 companies ranging from medium to large sized) to assist in determining a framework of evaluation for the agreed upon five levels associated with PPM adoption. These are the five levels.

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Put all projects in one database. Prioritise the projects in the database. Divide the projects into two or three budgets based on type of investment. Automate the repository. Apply Modern Portfolio Theory. (Reyck et al. 2005 527)

The researchers concluded, “An increased PPM adoption level has a significant positive impact on the return on the projects in the portfolio, and a significant negative impact on the number of project related problems reported” (Reyck et al. 2005 533). Nevertheless, they did find that “implementing specialized project portfolio management software will not add any value unless all other major processes have also been adopted” (Reyck et al. 2005 537).

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