Information Technology in Project Management Processes
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Improving the efficiency of the economy with its significant resources and reserves of raw materials can be achieved with the help of modern production technologies, which are usually owned by multinational corporations. This requires new methods of organizational management based on modern information technology. "Project management" is one of the promising methods of control. This method has been widely used in the U.S. (Sterman, 1992). However, implementing this method requires additional theoretical and methodological research.
The first programs for project management were developed years ago. The use of software systems was limited to traditional areas such as large buildings, engineering or defense projects, and required professional knowledge. Thus, the interest in project management has significantly increased over the last decade due to the emergence of new problems in the field of business administration. The development of technology and the increasing flexibility of control systems are the results of the rise of information technology. The use of project methods is one of the elements of organizations' shift towards flat management structures, self-managed teams, self-adjusting organizational structures, and other modern management decisions.
Modern project management methodology includes the number of different aspects, beginning with the formation of the project teams and contract procedures up to problems of strategic and operational planning, risk management, and the quality management results (Kerzner, 2001). Therefore, there are two stages of organizational management: management of the project creation and management for the project itself. Both stages of management include a number of general management functions: planning, evaluation, analysis, accounting, and control of implementation, regulation.
However, the object of control in the first phase is the process of creating a project (or a subproject) that is characterized by major economic, resource, and production figures. In the second stage, the object of control is the process of implementation of the project (or sub-projects), characterized by the same parameters. It should be noted that the traditional systems for project management (systems that are built based on algorithms for network planning) has a whole class of systems that support related procedures and management tasks. At the same time, the traditional project management system reinforced by modern network technology allows developing it from modulation system to system that really supports the process of coordination and control in real-time.
Project management is used in all spheres of human activity including engineering and production and business activities (process control). The aim of project management is to increase the efficiency of the units, enterprises, and organizations. Management should be based on information technology to meet the requirements of the modern economic environment (Kramer, Jenkins & Katz, 2007). The term "information technology" can be defined as a set of software and hardware, which provide an integrated and effective solution for diverse problems. Information technology management is the set of methods and ways of interaction of subsystems of management and control with the help of modern tools. Modern tools for management of unified information field consist of:
- an electronic computer;
- communications and computer systems;
- software and information tools;
- economic and mathematical methods and models;
- an expert system.
The aim of information technology management is to meet the information needs of all employees of the company who deal with decision-making. It may be useful at any level of control. This technology is focused on the work in the environment of the management information system. Information technology project management is perfectly suited to meet the information needs of similar workers in different functional subsystems (units) or levels of management of the company.
Gathered information contains data about the past, present, and likely future of the company. This information takes the form of management reports. Information should be presented in aggregate form so that one can view trends in the data, the causes of deviations, and possible solutions for decision-making at the management control level. At this stage, the following data tasks are to be solved:
- assessment of the planned state of the object management;
- assessment of deviations from the planned state;
- identification of the causes of deviations;
- analysis of possible solutions and actions.
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The integrated system of enterprise project management involves not only the sharing of tools but also special forms and technologies that make it possible to approach the project activities in the overall context of the company. There are certain, sometimes significant, project management peculiarities in every company. These differences are reflected at the level of formation of specific management procedures, routes, documents, tools used, etc. Similar principles of project management methods can be reduced to a number of key options for solutions, which form the basis for a variety of common business management techniques for every particular company.
Thus, the integrated project management system is regarded as the organizational and program-technical environment that provides managers with the tools of development and implementation of balanced management solutions. It is important to consider different levels and stages of the project management in all phases of its life cycle, allowing for effective management and coordination of the implementation process. There are two main areas - automation of project management standard and automation of project management functions.
Automated project management can be provided by means of information technology such as a document management system in the documentary part of the standard or control of business processes in the procedural part of the standard. A standard for enterprise project management is, first of all, the set of documents that explains how, in what sequence, at what time, using what templates one needs to perform certain actions in the process of project management. These documents do not belong to any particular project but form the normative and methodological support of the project management system as a whole. The number of such documents can be quite large. Thus, one of the most promising approaches is the organization of the standard in the form of a knowledge base that provides all the necessary services for updating, collecting, sharing, and searching for documents and other relevant information.
Project management procedures often demonstrate examples of the need for teamwork. Teamwork involves not only the project team but also the permanent departments of the company. Thus, it is very difficult but necessary to implement technology management in business processes (workflow) to support the procedural part of the standard. Explicitly or implicitly, the standard may have requirements for automated functions of project management. Therefore, while developing the standard it is necessary to bear in mind the prospect of creating project management that goes beyond the actual standard. Due to varying degrees of automation, the main areas of project management include proper management of projects which is usually understood as calendar and resource planning; the formation and maintenance of the project budget; document management; the synchronization of documents.
Traditional quantifiable indicators are no longer reflecting the quality of economic dynamics in the new historical conditions. A simple quantitative growth cannot change the position of the country in the international division of labor and ensure its sustainable and integrated development. Nowadays, the increase in the benefit depends on intellectual activity; improvement of the technological level of the production and dissemination of information and communication technologies. The key factor in contemporary socio-economic progress is the ability to accumulate and realize the potential for constructive and creative information technology.
The world global changes are characterized by the formation of a qualitatively new type of technological order. The production resources in the modern world are transforming into innovation and information, and existing economic systems are transformed into the knowledge economy. The transition from industrial to post-industrial society and the rapid development of information technology significantly increases the role of intellectual factors of production in comparison with the role of material factors and traditional workforce.
The fastening of socio-economic development is quite possible in terms of the relatively low rate of growth of material production. Therefore, the world is moving to a three-tier structure, which consists of pre-industrial (agricultural), industrial, and post-industrial countries. In the new world economic system, post-industrial countries are focusing their efforts on the creation, application, and dissemination of new technologies and innovations in management, production, education, culture, medicine, and the provision of services in these areas.
In modern conditions, the most important national resource is not only the traditional geographical space with an arrangement of population and production facilities but also the intelligence and finances which have no physical boundaries and are easily navigated in the virtual space using information technology. Lack of territorial "links" of key resources in the sphere of information technology enables global leaders to acquire the intellectual and financial resources in this field and to use them for their own purposes with little or no apparent physical intervention in the national economy. Still, the information data is actually taking away resources from the national socio-economic area. Global competition intensifies with the adoption of a new way of world domination.
As a result, those states and international associations of states, which form their socio-economic system based on the principles of the information society, will win the competition. The adequate response to the challenges of modern information technology project management should become the technological modernization of the economy, social and governance areas, through the establishment of a post-industrial infrastructure of modern telecommunications, electronic information networks, mobile and satellite communication, e-commerce and services, and the wide use of modern information technologies in social, economy and public administration.
The formation of modern information and communication infrastructure is essential to ensure the effective implementation of prior national projects aimed at the country's transition to an innovation state (Norris & Reddick, 2012). Such processes as the modernization of social services, improvement of the quality of health and education, technological advancement of agriculture are associated with the development of the information technology sector. The effective work of the government and professional community on the implementation of national priorities requires the development and implementation of a single-minded policy of Informational Technology Development of the country.
The first program, "National Information Infrastructure," appeared in the early 90s in the U.S. Having properly assessed U.S. initiatives Europe has launched the project "Information Society Technologies", which has found its development in the European Commission's initiative 1999 "e-Europe" (Hanseth & Monteiro, 1998). It has been composed to revitalize the formation of the pan-European information society. A key objective of these programs is to achieve a leading position in the economic and social development of society. They have a distinct socio-economic orientation and their main target is people, their values, and needs.
The priority areas of the programs are practically identical in the areas of legal development, personnel issues, improvement of information and communication infrastructure and the establishment of "electronic government". Much attention is paid to citizens, supporting the development of small and medium businesses in this area and monitoring the quality and competitiveness of the "human capital". Most of these programs and strategies for their implementation use information technology, e-commerce, e-government, e-business, etc.
Information and communication development involves the use of the benefits of new technological opportunities. It is aimed at the development and maximal use of the creative and cultural potential for regions and countries to increase their competitiveness in the global arena. Information systems were created to bound and integrate all kinds of resources, human capital, budget process, relationships with contractors, and the public. The development of the information component in the socio-economic sphere entails the creation of new jobs that require special training and retraining.
The shift of social values to the needs of physically and intellectually developed person has predetermined the development of health and education as important sectors of the economy. This has resulted in increased attention to business and government regarding information and communication development of medicine and education. The system for information technology business processes, governance, telemedicine, and distance learning define today the content and technology shape of the social and economic spheres of the country. The information revolution in the United States and other developed countries has occurred at the initiative and due to the active position of the government.
This created the conditions for the development of the information technology industry and encouraged the business community to increase the use of information technology management, to improve its technological equipment to the level achieved by the state. On the other hand, the globalization of the economy and increased competition in world markets has led to the need to apply innovative development strategies in business and to find innovative ways to improve competitiveness with the help of information technology.
The positive experience of the use of information technology in business has become a powerful source of influence on the formation of the modern concepts of effective governance and an important factor in the modernization of public administration. Thus, the government manifests itself as a corporation whose main objective is to manage its resources (money, personnel, technical equipment, etc.) effectively to meet the needs of the citizens as a sort of its "stakeholders".
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The practice of using the systems of corporate governance in the public sector is widespread and it covers many spheres from the organization of the supply of goods and services for state needs to systems of interaction with the public. This practice is similar to the processes of development and application of "dual-use" technology to reduce the volume of information technology developments undertaken exclusively for public use and save budget money.
Not all information department workers in the private sector are aware of the fact that the management of companies does not want to increase the amount of data, the development of information technology or to increase computer speed. Management of companies requires information that affects the competitiveness of the company, including the new concept of managing. Recently, top management of various organizations requires information concerning goods of solid demand on the global market. Today, top management often requires a new concept of governance for effective work in the global market in terms of customer-oriented economy. Nevertheless, it is important to keep the trade secret information.
On the other hand, the construction of any effective system in the public sector is impossible without clear, measurable, time-bound, and achievable goals. That is why information technology project management should serve the strategic goals of the country and meet the targets of a certain region. Further strategic objectives decomposition at the operational level will clarify the main purposes. Processes and procedures occupy one of the most important places in information technology at a public level. Processes and procedures ultimately determine the entire system's effectiveness and allow pointing out the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of participants and stakeholders in terms of projects and program implementation.
Processes and procedures are to be presented in the form of different documents, such as regulations, methodologies, work instructions, templates, etc. It is impossible to form an effective system of project and program management in government without the necessary regulatory documents. However, modern practice in local authorities shows that the most effective mechanism is when the rule-making initiatives come from the federal government, taking into account comments and suggestions from the regions.
The implementation of projects and programs in the modern functional management structure in the public sector is very slow and complicated due to the cross-functional barriers and gaps in the processes and procedures. The implementation of information technologies in the private sector depends on the investigation in this area and the complexity of the given private business structure.
However, the purpose of the application of information technology in business and public administration (the creation and application of technologies of the «electronic government») is different. If the appointment of corporate information systems is to achieve an economic benefit for each operation, the main purpose of public administration information systems is to ensure the accuracy of decision-making and minimize the risks of fault actions that may result in money loss.
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There are no universal prescriptions, which could equally be suitable for various companies in the private sector. However, there are some methods, which can help to build an effective enterprise management system. This is a formalized set of concepts and processes, which allows the whole company to compose effective work strategy. These methods can be purely constructive, like a set of instructions (the algorithm). Some of them are (proposed):
- The solution can always be found.
- The analysis of the results of the company’s operations should be done.
- These methods of building management systems have passed some levels of development.
- The methods used in management have proven to be effective.
- The methods cover all the activities of the enterprise (Pena-Mora, Vadhavkar, Perkins &Weber, 1999).
In the public sector organizational structure should be formed/changed in compliance with the aim to stay focused on the support of the effective implementation of projects and programs based on the requirements and corresponding indicators. The staff is the basic element for information technology management. The requirements for qualification of personnel and flexibility in today's conditions are exponentially growing.
For example, it is a well-known fact, that the speed of change in the economic system is reduced in the following order: technology – processes - organizational structure - the staff. It means that information technology is changing rapidly (in some areas 2 times a year) and the staff is the most slowly varying factor. It is necessary to use modern means of communication (video and web seminars), advanced training methods including mental maps, etc. to improve the work of the staff. It will allow lowering costs for self-training and significantly increase its effectiveness. Finally, no system can be effective without adequate information support, which provides the basis for sound management decisions.
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In this case, there must be integrated management information systems programs and projects with the system of e-government in the region, a system of budgetary planning and control, document management systems, etc. The creation of a common language of communication understandable to all participants and simple rules and procedures for project and program management as well as the organization of regular training and retraining of staff is the first stage of formation and development of information technology in government priorities.
The activities of many companies in various fields are implemented in the form of projects. At the same time, even not too complex projects may face problems that manifest themselves in customer dissatisfaction and self- management, missed deadlines, cost overruns, conflicts within the project team, etc. Prevention and overcoming of these problems are the most important components of the work of the project management staff that must be supported by relevant standards, methodologies, and tools.
Thus, the activities of project management, like no other types of professional activities, create self-development of the products and services. The most important elements affecting the development and formation of these market segments include training courses and certificate programs. Obviously, other things being equal, preference will be given to certified professionals and consulting companies with these professionals.