PM Articles > Alan S. Koch > Project Management vs. Service Management

Project Management vs. Service Management

A Project Scope Question

You've been tapped to manage a software development project. You realize that an important early challenge will be to define the Product Scope and get all of the Stakeholders' agreement on it.

But what about Project Scope?

We all know that the project has to include activities beyond merely writing code. Eliciting users' requirements, designing, coding, testing must all be addressed. But what else? If we step outside the doors of the software cave, we will run across many complicating issues that raise interesting questions about where the boundaries of our project should be drawn.

Let's take a look at this from the perspective of a Service Management professional on the operational side of the house. "Arun" posted the following on the ITILĀ® and ITSM Certified Experts discussion forum on LinkedIn. [Editor's Note: Though he remains fairly anonymous in this column, Arun asked us to point out that the views represented below are his alone, and do not represent the views of his organization.]

Arun: "I am currently working to establish an interface between Project Management and Service Management. In the past we have observed that Project Managers struggle to engage Service Management (Change Manager, Transition Manager and Release Manager) at right stage of the project. Because of this struggle, services have gone live with various issues such as:
  • The Service Change Management process only being used for change logging purposes, defeating its primary purpose, which is to anticipate and mitigate the risks of making changes.
  • Capacity not properly estimated -- especially the human resources that will be required to operate and support the service, and the equipment required to run it.
  • Operational requirements are missed resulting in a system that is resource-intensive to manage, and difficult to troubleshoot and tune.
"There is no Service Design Coordinator role in our organization -- the Project Manager is expected to play this role."

An aside: ITIL defines the Service Design Coordinator role to include these responsibilities:

  • Overseeing the overall design of all service design processes (Availability, Capacity, Security, Continuity and Service Level Management) to ensure that they work together to meet the needs of the business.
  • Managing the quality criteria, requirements and handover points between Service Design and Service Transition.
  • Ensuring that appropriate Service Design Packages are produced.

ITIL recommends that these Service Design Packages include these things:

  • Business requirements
  • Functional requirements
  • Service Level (non-functional) requirements
  • Operational management requirements
  • Service transition plan (plan to roll out the new or changed service)
  • Operational acceptance plan

In my reply to Arun, I confirmed the value of the work he had been assigned:

Alan: "Each change or improvement that is made in an IT organization is (by definition) a project, and should be managed as such. ITIL includes two processes that are essentially project management processes -- Design Coordination, and Transition Planning and Support. How is the role of your Transition Manager different from the role of a Project Manager? They sure sound like different takes on the same thing to me!

"In an organization like yours that has professional project managers, I would want those people to do both Design Coordination, and Transition Planning and Support -- or whatever Project process those two morph into in the hands of good project managers!"

Silos of work are inevitable in any large organization. Separating software development from operations is quite common and natural given the different skills and knowledge that are required to do each well. But where there is separation, there is a crying need to bridge the gap and ensure that work is coordinated.

Arun's answer yielded the information I feared that it would:

Arun: "Thanks Alan! My observation is that the focus of Project Managers is always time, cost, and sometimes quality -- where the Transition Managers focus on the operational requirements of the service."

There it is! Project Managers are expected to act as the Design Coordinators, but they are not concerned with some of the most important parts of the Service Design Package -- the operational requirements and impacts, and the operational acceptance criteria. No wonder they run into operational issues when the software is deployed!

I replied:

Alan: "Arun, Project Managers who manage time and cost, but fail to fully address Scope or Quality are only doing *part* of their jobs. If they *were* managing all four dimensions, then there would be clear overlap between them and your Transition Managers.

"Problems arise when one person (Project Manager) focuses on time and cost, while the other (Transition Manager) focuses on scope of work and quality. This all-too-common scenario sets these two roles up for conflict. Effective Project Management requires a balanced focus on all four dimensions, with trade-offs among them carefully considered -- something that can't happen with schizophrenic management."

Arun thanked me. I hope he felt empowered to embrace his mission by challenging that schizophrenic management structure. It is not really an "interface" that he needed. When you have a two-headed beast, getting the two heads to work nicely with each other is not the answer. A single head that actually pays attention to the entire Project Scope works best.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

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