“If I write-up a study of our experiences with Integrated PM, then it could be published in the R&D Journal of Integrated PM, and be improved upon for all our benefit, but I don’t have the quantitative data that is expected in a scholarly R&D Journal.”
The difference between qualitative and quantitative studies is more than just levels of abstraction. Turns out acceptance is another difference. We need papers utilizing the power of qualitative assessments. Let me explain.
Integrated PM research is a project value realization activity, and project value realization is a philosophy concerning how to create competitive advantage using projects. As a philosophy, project value realization competes against other philosophies that make different prescriptions for business success. Notable among competitors to the project value realization philosophy are
- the marketing philosophy (success comes from focusing on markets and customer’s needs to guide business decisions),
- the innovation philosophy (success comes from technology leadership),
- the quality philosophy (success comes from building the highest quality products),
- and the financial philosophy (success comes from making the most efficient use of resources).
At pmNERDS, we believe that Integrated PM is a combination and acceptance of all these philosophies as essential parts of the entire system. Because Integrated PM research reflects an enterprise wide business philosophy, and because this philosophy focuses on learning, organization change may be required when the firm desires to improve its project’s performance with respect to Integrated PM research. Put another way, to be truly effective, Integrated PM research cannot be treated as an isolated function assigned to specialized staff. It must be a cultural orientation that suffuses the organization.
For Integrated PM research studies, the core competence is problem formulation skills. Most business situations do not present themselves as clearly delineated problems but as tangled messes that might be approached in a variety of ways. To succeed in an Integrated PM research study requires that the author clearly articulate the problem to be addressed and the specific kinds of information needed.
If someone was to pick up a project study you might think that factor analysis was a more important component of commercial Integrated PM research than focus groups. In fact, statistical techniques have their place, but are more likely to be seen in academic than commercial research contexts.
There are good historical and sociological reasons for the relative neglect of qualitative Integrated PM research techniques. First of all, the path to promotion and prestige in academic social science rests on the ability to master arcane statistical analysis. Ph.D. programs in projects and in supporting disciplines such as psychology and economics heavily emphasize training in statistics and associated mathematical subjects such as probability theory.
The best journals feature the most elaborate and advanced statistical treatments. Publication in such journals is sine qua non for promotion and tenure. As a result, most instructors teaching projects, particularly those teaching in the better graduate programs, owe much of their career success to their facility with and mastery of statistical analysis. It should come as no surprise if their course syllabi and the textbooks they choose also emphasize the analysis of quantitative project research data.
In IT, as in academia, there is also a bias towards quantitative data. In most technology firms, especially those that sell business to business, management staff consists of engineers and scientists. These are people whose career success may initially have rested on the mastery of the intricacies of the physics that underlie electrical engineering. This background leads quite naturally to a demand that Integrated PM researchers deliver precise numerical estimates.
Unfortunately, training in the physical sciences is not always a good preparation for training in the social sciences. Human data are different from physical data. Most notably, measurements on humans are subject to much greater uncertainty than the measurements taken on things, and are much more mutable- what is true today may not be true tomorrow, and what is true for this client may not be true for another client. Qualitative techniques are ideally suited to grappling with uncertainty and novelty.
In summary, the discipline needs Integrated PM research papers that corrects for the unequal and subordinate emphasis typically placed on qualitative techniques. Members of this community are in particular need of the potential benefits delivered by qualitative research. That is, technology managers, PMO Directors, Marketing Directors, are less familiar with non-quantified but disciplined social science research.
Perhaps more important, quantitative Integrated PM research techniques are often unsuitable for project markets, inasmuch as they may presume a sample drawn from a large homogeneous population (projects are most often fragmented and small), easy -to-explain product functionality (project products are complex), and a stable competitive and pricing environment (projects change rapidly). All these factors play to the strength of qualitative techniques.
Please then, don’t hesitate in submitting your research, there are additional blog posts that can help point you to research methods, and section editors who have volunteered to help bring your ideas to the rest of the community.