Running IT Projects the way Movies are Made

The Movie Analogy to Running IT Projects

It may seem strange but running IT Projects is not that much different to making movies. They are created in small clips and then put together at the end and the way movies are made appears to be a far better and more successful process than running IT Projects.

Programming, Analysis, and Project Management are different skills. Some programmers and analysts make good project managers. Others do not. Many do not want to become project managers. What they want to do is earn more money.

How often have you seen, at your organisation, that the best business analyst with the best business systems knowledge can’t run a project for toffee? Also how often have you seen a project manager who is logistically good and gets systems delivered in reasonable time, deliver systems that are not fit for business purpose?

The Cure

There is a cure for this which enables you to use your best people most effectively and which helps to keep them at your organisation. This is the use of Directors and Producers. In the movie industry, the Director is the person who is the creative genius, the Steven Spielberg, the person who makes the picture. This is your Senior Business Analyst.

The Producer is the person who handles the logistics. He or she makes sure the actors are hired, the contracts drawn up, the locations are booked, everyone turns up at the right place at the right time, the costumes are made, the food arrives, the star has the best caravan, the movie is on schedule etc.

Doing all this, as well as making the movie, would sap Steven Spielberg’s creative energy. There is no reason why he would be any good at this just because he can make good movies.

Equal Standing

The Producer and the Director would have equal standing and would therefore have similar recompense. The Director may even have a higher recompense.

This is a difficult idea to sell to senior management as they like to see one person in charge, i.e. the logistics person. This idea of Producers and Directors seems to them to be a bit ‘arty’ and not of the real ‘hard-nosed’ world. They also usually have projects which run over budget and time, which do not deliver fit-for-purpose systems, and have their best staff leaving in droves in this ‘hard-nosed’ world.

It should be explained to them that they would only have one point of contact. As the pressures on them are mainly money and time, their point of contact should be the Producer.

Potential Conflict

There is also the problem of potential conflict between the ‘arty’ Director and the ‘real world’ Producer. It is important, then, to appoint a Producer who gets on well with the Director (notice that it is this way round). In the movie world, it is often the case that the Director appoints the Producer, often someone who he has worked with successfully in the past.

Organisations continually complain that they are constantly losing people with good business knowledge from the systems department. With this change of emphasis, you will be able to keep your best Business Analysts. At the Academy Awards it is noticeable that although there is an award for Best Director, there is no award for Best Producer.

In Tandem

To cut any potential friction between the Producer and the Director, make their rewards mechanism the same so that their goals are aligned. Don’t reward the Director for fitness-for-purpose while rewarding the Producer for Timeliness and meeting budget.

If you have problems selling this idea to senior management, just call them the Project Manager and the Senior Business Analyst while separating the roles. It is better, however, if you can convince them that this is a good idea. It makes it easier to justify the kind of rewards for the Director / Senior Business Analyst which would keep him or her at the company.