Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Professional Studies


School of Information Studies


Michelle Kaarst-Brown


Information Management, Information Sciences, Information Technology, Project Management, Project Manager, Project Success

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


One source of confusion around the factors that influence project manager efficacy already identified in the literature is the lack of clear agreement on definitions of success as viewed by different stakeholders in the context of project success, project management success, and project manager success. These are not subtle differences when making decisions related to hiring, professional development efforts, and curriculum development. The purpose of this phenomenological research was to identify what Senior IT Leaders and Certified Project Management Professionals (PMPs) identify as the most important attributes for project manager efficacy as it relates to project success. The first sub-question is whether there are differences in expectations between Senior IT Leaders who hire, assign, and develop their project managers, and Certified Project Management Professionals who execute projects. The second sub-question is whether contextual factors such as industry or organizational culture affect stakeholder skill rankings. The final sub-question is whether new project management modalities such as agile create different demands on project managers, resulting in new or changing perceptions of necessary skills and knowledge for project manager efficacy. Using a comparative focus group design with participants from three industry sectors, this study provides clear evidence of the factors these two stakeholder groups consider the most important contributors to project manager efficacy as it relates to project success and application of project management tools/knowledge. Contributions of findings extend beyond providing a list of skills project managers must acquire by providing a deeper understanding of priorities and contextual influences on perceived value in three categories; 1. IT knowledge and skills, 2. Interpersonal skills and 3. Project management methodology knowledge and application. The key lessons learned from this thesis research contribute to the overall body of knowledge in IT project management, as well as to practice. Key Finding 1: There is a clear skill category preference for project managers in an IT-centric project environment for both stakeholder groups, adding to our understanding of the potential conflicts and agreements between hiring, delegating or development managers and project managers. Key Finding 2: The skill category priorities related to factors that contribute to project success and attributes that contribute to project manager efficacy strengthened through collaborative discussion with peers, suggesting that research methods need to engage participants. Key Finding 3: Four specific attribute categories emerged as most important for project manager efficacy: facilitation skills, communication skills, leadership skills, and individual personality traits. Key Finding 4: While Senior IT Leaders considered IT knowledge and skills as "moderately important" contributors to project success, descriptions suggested a preference for general, or basic, IT knowledge rather than a specialized area of IT expertise. This finding may influence practitioners' decisions on resource allocation for project manager development. Key Finding 5: There were suggestions of industry influences on attributes influencing project manager efficacy during the initial group brainstorming. However, stakeholders did not include those attributes that varied between industries when ranking attributes in order of perceived importance, adding support for a group of key attributes that are expected of project managers for them to be effective across industries. Key Finding 6: Similarly, while the participants' suggest project manager efficacy is situational; this did not influence their skill category rankings or attributes most important for project manager efficacy. This reinforces support for key attributes of effective project managers. Key Finding 7: Agile project management approaches do create a different demand on project managers; however, participants were unanimous in their assertion that the attributes most important for project manager efficacy do not change in an agile project management environment. This is an important finding as it contradicts early anecdotal evidence. Each of these findings contribute to the body of research on project manager success, project success and project management success, as well as providing insights for practice and new thoughts for future research.


Open Access