Business vs. IT Projects: Understanding the Differences
By Ricardo Viti, PMP
It is a typical error to equate the requirements of business and
IT projects. While the Project Management Institute does not differentiate
between these types of projects, and it is true that the main phases
can be the same, the frequent issues and risks are most certainly
What are those differences and how can you manage them?
Typically, in an IT project, the stakeholders are accustomed to
the process of implementation. They are familiar with the phases,
deliverables and general mechanisms used to conduct a project.
They are also aware that the project requirements must be well
defined at the outset, and they see the value of testing and change
In a business project, stakeholders are less likely to be aware
of project management processes. It is the job of the project manager
to manage stakeholder expectations and to assist and advise along
IT project-specific tasks have been standardized and repeated for
ages from lists of requirements regarding design, development,
testing and implementation. IT has continuously improved and developed
multiple standard system lifecycle methodologies over the years.
It is possible to evaluate the resources and time-used with precision.
With a business project, project-specific tasks are usually unknown,
so it is important that the project manager work closely with the
stakeholders and subject matter experts to define these tasks and
estimate the work. It is necessary to make subject matter experts
a crucial component of the process in identifying, planning and
monitoring tasks closely.
Project team resources in an IT setting are usually created in the
- taken from the internal IT department,
- contracted from an IT services company,
- outsourced to a managed services organization.
In many cases, these resources are able to devote their full energies
to the projects at hand.
But a business project may need expert resources
that can only be gathered from the particular business organization
due to the complex subject matter and knowledge required of internal
practices. These resources are often required to maintain a full-time "day" job
in addition to the project at hand, causing an overload of responsibility.
To avoid this overlap and insufficient time management, dedication
to the project must be planned and agreed upon in advance.
Risks and Mitigations
As mentioned before, an IT project has a more "tried and true" process
with less need for alteration in its steps, which therefore allows
for sufficiently less risk. However, it is still important to employ
risk management to ensure a positive outcome.
Risk management activities for a business project are critical.
Everyone involved must clearly understand the potential obstacles
that could impact the outcome of the project and how it benefits
Business Projects on the Rise
As more and more business organizations choose to lead business
initiatives, the role of the project manager becomes crucial.
Experienced project managers can lead the business to establish
standard project processes and provide coaching and mentoring
to team members.
If you have a business initiative that needs some additional attention,
contact Peritius Consulting. Managing strategic business initiatives
is our specialty.