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The Project Butterfly: Coordinating Both Wings of the Butterfly

written by: Hans • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 5/17/2013

I invented this metaphor for a lecture about project management. It developed from my observing that project management and (software) technology often are not divided properly. Thus decisions go wrong, roles are misunderstood, and the organization fails.

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    Making a Sharp Cut Between Technology and Project Managment

    The Project Butterfly: An Illustration The Principle

    A project has at least two parts on the organizational level that have to be managed. On one hand we have the project management itself. On the other hand, we deal with technological approaches. Neither of these is normally differentiated, especially in IT situations. To get a good project management plan, we need to distinguish which are decisions on the organizational side and which ones have to be made on the technological side.

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    The Project Managers Wing

    The project manager has to ensure that the technological wing of the butterfly gets all the required resources they need, in the quality required. That's why this wing has another role to fulfill. Another role, another strategy. Often project managers look at the technological schema of their project and see that "there is a waterfall approach" and now they do project planning that only consists of distributing resources to the waterfall. This way, they often forget the point of their job, which is to complete a project.

    Project management has its own models like PRINCE, DIN, or PMBOK. Thus on the project managers wing there should a model like this applied. Organize project management by using project management models and methods, not technological methods.

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    The Software Engineers Wing

    Software engineers have another point of view on the project. They think about technological models for the process of product creation. Thus, they have to concentrate on these technological ideas. They need to decide whether to use a waterfall, a RUP, or a SCRUM method. These decisions have to be discussed with the project manager, but in the end software engineers have to decide which technological path to follow. This way the technological point of view ensures the best way to use technical solutions, and to find the most efficient way for the actual project to be realized.

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    The Fusion

    Both wings need to be synchronized as closely as possible. Here, we have to take care to always hold the right order. First, we give a framework (Goals and Deadlines) from the project management to the software engineers. Then, they find out the best technological way to get the products they were asked to deliver. This technological model goes back to project management and they refine the project plan on this basis, planning milestones, product parts, testing, qm, service and so on.

    If the synchronization fails, it could be from some very simple reasons. Is the PM wing too strong, causing the project to fall short of its goal? This would be the case if technological and technical processes are overdone during the organization phase, or if the management does things it should not do or does too much.

    The opposite case is when project management is weak and the technology is too strong. In this case, the project fails because the overdone technical and technological steps have no basis in management. It is commonly known that management must make sure that engineers have all resources necessary to do their job to their fullest potential. Thus, a good balance of both wings is the basis for successful projects.