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UNIVERSITY OF LJUBLJANA

FACULTY OF ECONOMICS

Dino Memović 19149292

IT Project management for international student


organizations
MASTERS THESIS DISPOSITION

Red. Prof. Dr. Talib Damij

Ljubljana, 2017
Problem Description

Every organization has to perform some work in order to achieve its goals. This work can be
split into operations and projects. Or more simply put work that needs to be done continuously
and work towards specific time constrained goals. One of better definitions of project is given
by PMBOK: “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or
service” (Project Management Institute, 2013)

By that analogy, IT Project management (in further text ITPM) is simply put Project
management applied to the field of IT with a goal of creating an IT product or service (BBV
Software Services, 2013). We just apply same principles that we would apply for every other
projects and case closed.

But the fact that 88% of IT projects are over budget or past deadline (Geneca, 2011) and that
more than 70% of businesses feel that their IT projects are doomed to failure from start
(Geneca, 2011). Surely if ITPM was the same as other PMs, Fred Brooks wouldn’t start his
famous The Mythical Man Month book by comparing IT projects with a tar pit that entraps
animals deeper the harder they try to release themselves (Fred Brooks, 1995) Unless we take
into consideration the constraints imposed by specificities of programming, the company and
the overall environment of the project, our project will most likely fail (Fred Brooks, 1995). So for
a successful IT project, we need to understand the underlying constraints of the project itself
(Martin, 2009).

Most of IT PM literature focuses on companies, academia, and government organizations. The


major exception is research conducted in the area of Open Source software (in further text
OSS) communities. OSS is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and
enhance (Open Source organization, 2016)

This thesis aims to look into ITPM for international voluntary student organizations. As in OSS
everything is developed by volunteers, but the overlaying organizational structure is more akin
to a corporation due to the vast number of members spanned over many countries (Hunt &
Thomas, 1999).

This thesis has for its goal to look at one of these international voluntary student organizations.
Board of European Students of Technology (BEST) is a constantly growing non-profit and non-
political organization. Since 1989 we provide communication, co-operation and exchange
possibilities for students all over Europe. Its 96 Local BEST Groups (LBGs) in 33 countries are
creating a growing, well organized, powerful, young and innovative student network.(Ivancan,
2015)

Over the years as the organization grew so did its IT needs. In the late 90s the organization
moved all of its communication online, and as it handled some 10 thousand applications for its
Summer academic courses this was no small feat (Kis, 1997) and more importantly it allowed
for a vast decentralization of the selection process as well as vast reduction in the manual work
and travel required in order for the 40 local groups to select participants for their summer
course. (Kis, 1997).

In its early inception IT of the organization was handled by its IT Committee of BEST (in further
text ITC), consisting of students of programming who were passionate about their art and its
legacy continues to this day with current IT Department continuously supporting the
organizations grows with its IT solutions. The statement of purpose of IT Department of BEST is
stated as follows:

IT Department listens to the IT needs of the organization, develops concepts of IT


applications, implements and provides technical resources and services, in order to
support the whole organization in achieving its goals and visions (BEST IT Department,
2015)

The committee started without a formal organization. IT was separated into 3 areas, developers
(ITD), interaction Designers (ITID) and system administrators (ITA) (BEST ITC, 2016).
Interaction designers would communicate with users in order to specify and design features;
while the developers would simply pick up whatever they wanted and work on it. The committee
was coroneted by chief information officer (CIO) of the organization (BEST ITC, 2016).

Over the years, the committee and later department slowly developed into what it is today. In its
starts it was very similar to open source projects, in fact, it did create an Open Source Project:
Makumba (Bogdan, 2001). Which is the name of the java web platform that was created by ITC
in the early 2000s and on which all of its later systems of BEST are built.

An important feature to note is that most of the work is done online. As volunteers are
geographically far from each other, the whole is essentially an online community. In some ways,
this is similar to most open source projects, but as the whole organization has a more corporate
model, IT Department essentially the mode of operation is more similar to that of a company
that predominantly employs distributed software teams (Teeselink, 2007).

As the organization grew and developed so did its IT needs and its IT department. And now it's
responsible for maintaining and developing the 500 thousand line codebase that consists the
core of its intranet Private Area and the websites for its services. At the moment the IT
Department is investigating the viability of transitioning from an informal waterfall methodology
to a more agile, scrum-based project management methodology (Moser, 2007).

When we refer to waterfall model, think of a sequential cascading development process. Just
like a real waterfall, it finishes one step and then proceeds to the next. This project and planning
methodology assumes that different blocks cannot be done concurrently or in a different order
(ie. you cannot test software before finishing the software design). Well-known methodologies
that follow this project management philosophy are PMBOK( Project Management Body of
Knowledge) and PRINCE project management methodologies. All of them, in essence, have in
common that you start by investing heavily in planning at the beginning of the project and rest is
simply checking if the execution is going according to plan and proceeding accordingly
(BENINGTON, 1956).

The agile approach to software management started with the agile manifesto in 2001 (Beck et
al., 2001a). Some of the biggest drivers behind agile methodologies are behind the fact that
planning assumes future, which is something we can’t affect; and also that customers rarely
know what exactly they need and want, and that those needs change over the lifespan of the
project (Beck et al., 2001b).

To combat this a plethora of methodologies have been developed that strive to increase the
involvement of customers in the development process and that vouch for small rapid
development cycles as well as striving to reduce the managerial overhead of key roles
(University of Minnesota, 2008).

One of the more famous methodologies is Scrum, which splits the required work in sprints. Each
sprint starts with selecting and specifying features that will be developed on that sprint, after
which programmers focus on developing & test the features in the short 2-4 weeks of the sprint.
Also, we strive to plan sprints such that all features are developed by the end of the sprint and
we choose the most important features and also we distribute them so that we can release a
new version of the software every few sprints (Rubin, 2012).
Purpose of the thesis
The main purpose of the project is to evaluate the IT Department of BESTs Project
management practices and contrast them to both professional companies and open source
communities in order to provide an example of how to do ITPM in an international voluntary
organization.

Main motivation behind such a topic is that there is a distinct lack of research work in the area of
project management for amateur programming communities that are not OSS, despite the fact
that almost every organization today has to have IT as in today's connected world you simply
cannot survive without IT capabilities (Bogdan, 2003).

As our main goal is to show how to go about ITPM in big voluntary organizations we will strive to
answer following questions:
 What is ITPM?
 Examples of successful implementations of ITPM of distributed online teams from both
IT industry and open source projects?
 How is IT department of BEST organized?
 ITPM in BEST?
 How could we improve the ITPM of BEST?

The primary benefit would bridge the research gap and provide an example for the big
international organization on how to organize a semi-professional voluntary IT Department and
how to do ITPM in such organization. As well the study will provide the IT Department of BEST
improvement points (BEST, 2016) to further improve the department which we will get by
contrasting their practices with the best practices found in the industry and open source
communities.

The finished thesis will provide a snapshot on how IT department can be organized for big
international voluntary organizations, which will allow organizations to better organize their own
IT Departments which will allow them to better support the growth and development of their
respective organizations trough IT.
Methods of analytical approach

As we are talking about ITPM in an organization we will first do a literary review in order to
better understand project management as well as to understand the particulars of ITPM for
distributed online teams (Fezzani, 2001). During the review, we will look both at companies that
predominantly work with distributed teams and Open Source Software projects (Jungpil Hahn,
Chen Zhang, 2005).

After we get a clear image of how successful organization implements both software
development and ITPM in an online distributed environment, we will take a look at the IT
Department implementation. In order to satisfy our goal of this paper to be an example of how to
implement ITPM in large voluntary organizations, we will describe the details of IT Departments
organization, as well as how the department handles IT projects (García-Álvarez, 2015).
Namely from companies, we will look at Attomatic which is the corporation that works
exclusively online with developers all over the world (Berkun, 2013). And from an open source,
we will look at successful Linux project (Hertel, Niedner, & Herrmann, 2003) (“Linux kernel
coding style,” n.d.) as well as some aggregate studies of various OSS projects.

Then we will contrast the IT department with the best practices in the industry in order to provide
the department with some improvement points, as well as show how ITPM in a big voluntary
organization can look in an ideal state.

Primary data collection will be done through insider researcher method. Although this method is
rarely used as directly involving the researcher in the subject of research as the fact that
researcher perceives through his own senses directly adds a level of subjectivity to the overall
picture. In this case, as we are focusing on the organization and its impact on the productivity of
the department it is appropriate(“Measuring Organizational Performance | Business
Improvement Architects,” n.d.). Besides comparing the structure with the theoretical constructs
and successful examples from the industry we will strive to quantify the impact by looking at
following factors:

 Department level productivity under different organizational approaches


 code quality – measured by a number of found and reported bugs, as well as the need of
later reworks or refactoring’s as well as by the technical dept.
 Ability of the department to deliver the results by deadline

Department level productivity will be measured by looking at the number of features and
bugfixes implemented during a given month, which will be adjusted by code difficulty, using a
scrum approach for story points (Rubin, 2012) as well as by looking at the number of active
developers in the given month (Shore, 2007).

Code quality will be measured trough number of reported bugs for code as well looking at
instances where code required heavy refactoring later on(Bird, 2011). The third metric is self-
evident, we will look at the deadlines set and measure all breaches of said deadlines.
Master Thesis Structure

1. IT Project Management
1. Definition of IT Project Management
2. What constitutes a project
3. Classical project management Methodologies
2. Agile project management
1. Agile project management approaches
2. Scrum method
3. Specificities of managing distributed online projects
4. Open Source Software project management
3. Study of a corporate online distributed IT Project Management in Attomatic Inc.
4. Study of IT Project Management in Open Source Software
5. IT Department of student organization BEST
1. What is BEST
2. History of the IT department
3. Organization of the IT Department
6. IT Project Management in IT Department of BEST
1. PMBOK based approach in IT department
2. Agile approach in IT department
3. Project lifecycle in IT department
4. Impact of different project management methodologies on programming metrics
7. Improvement points of the IT department
8. Conclusion
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