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What’s New in Infrastructure Project Management

IT Infrastructure

Project Management

How has Infrastructure PM Methodology changed through the years? While the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) practices are still widely accepted as the gold standard in the industry as far as Infrastructure Project Management, other types of Project Management Philosophies, traditionally geared more towards Application Development, have started to become more heavily utilized. These include Agile and SCRUM based approaches. What does this mean? Agile Project Management is probably the most popular of the newer PM approaches used today. It breaks down a typical project into smaller more manageable workstreams, where smaller teams can collaborate in a more efficient manner. SCRUM (a subset of Agile) is arguably the most popular Agile methodology and is based on Sprints that usually last 2-¬4 weeks.

It should be noted that PMBOK is more of a general framework and not a methodology in itself. It’s a framework of best practices for applying project management around five process groups; initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closure, as well as nine knowledge areas. The process groups can be further defined as define, design, plan, deploy, test and release into production, where BAU/steady state support would follow. This approach follows more of a prototypical infrastructure project work schedule (WBS or sometimes referred to as a project plan), or a waterfall approach, where the steps are static, progress is seen as flowing downwards and deviations from designs aren’t encouraged.

Agile Methodology has more of a lightweight type approach. Planning and designing are sometimes merged into a single group, as are testing and deployment. One of the challenges of Agile Project management for infrastructure is that the longer lead times involved in performing server consolidations or data center migrations don’t inherently lend themselves to agile methods, which typically have shorter lead times. The flip side is that because Agile is so effective, it can used to develop micro-plans when setting up a new service or infrastructure. For example, when standing up a new data center, you’ll have many different workstreams—server, networking, facilities, etc.—as well as different types of infrastructure staff that support Mainframe, UNIX/Linux and Windows. Your project itself can be separated into distinct Sprints, some of which may be dependent on others. Each phase is based on a schedule of time frames and collaboration on all moving parts.

So how do you typically start an infrastructure project that is geared around AIX or Linux? Let’s look at server consolidation. First comes the project initiation where you define your project. It’s in this early stage that the funding for the project needs to be forecasted and approved. This is where you’ll need to come up with a Bill of Materials (BOM) for your hardware and calculate your labor costs. This likely will require working with external vendors, so I would make sure that you have the right contacts for whatever vendors you will be using. I’ve found that the lead time toward getting a quote from a BOM can take anywhere from two days to two weeks, depending on who you are contacting. It’s also in this stage that the preliminary architectural planning will also take place, so you need to have quotes that will help staff architect the project, as well as secure funding.

After you have secured approval for your project, the more intensive design planning can start. This is typically where the architects design what it is that you are doing. If it’s server consolidation, this is where you’ll further define how you’ll be using VIO servers, how you will partition your environments, the hardware platforms that you will be using, the OSs (and versions), etc. If you’re migrating from a different platform like Solaris, you’ll need to do application analyses to make sure that the applications that you intend to run on AIX (or Linux for that matter) will run without problem. If your applications are more home-grown, than this may take more effort, as the more common business applications will usually run on both AIX and Solaris. Either way, put enough time into the analysis to make sure that you don’t have any issues down the road when trying to test, so that you don’t have that uh-oh moment that could have been avoided had you done the proper homework up front.

Finally, today’s project manager needs to be savvy in working with global teams, as the IT world has truly become a global workplace. You will need to schedule meetings at odd hours, oftentimes with teams from cultures that are much different than yours. Even though the language barrier may not be a problem if you are lucky enough to happen to speak the language of a particular team, if you are not sensitive to the culture of the people that you manage, you may be in for a rude awakening when nothing gets done. Take the time to understand the people that you will be working with. There’s no single concept more important in succeeding as a Project Manager than building relationships. That’s why companies oftentimes request experience managing virtual teams in a global environment.

In this article, we discussed some of the technology innovations in recent years that may increase the level of complexity for your project. We also discussed some of the changes in PM approaches and methodology that may help you drive your project more efficiently, as well as some of the unique challenges you may have face leading Global projects. As a technical infrastructure PM, you’ll need to have evolved through the years and adapted to the changing landscape, in order to succeed.

Ken Milberg, CATE, PMP, is a diverse IT Professional with 20+ years of experience. He is a Power Systems Champion. Ken is a technology writer and site expert for techtarget and has also been a frequent contributor of content for IBM developerWorks. Ken has also been a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine and is a former technical editor. He can be reached at

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