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Original Research: Project Management within the Information Systems Discipline

Between a rock and a hard place: Management and implementation teams’ expectations of project managers in an agile information systems delivery environment

Songezo Nkukwana, Nicky H.D. Terblanche

SA Journal of Information Management; Vol 19, No 1 (2017), 10 pages. doi: 10.4102/sajim.v19i1.806

Submitted: 15 November 2016
Published:  11 August 2017


Background: To address the low success rate in information system (IS) projects, organisations in South Africa are adopting agile implementation methodologies. Agile delivery environments advocate an iterative approach where autonomous, self-organising teams share project management (PM) activities. This encroaches on the traditional project manager role. Are project managers still relevant in agile delivery environments and how should they adapt?

Objectives: This case study investigated how project managers could adapt to agile IS implementation environments to remain relevant. Specifically, the views of their key stakeholders (the management and implementation teams) were elicited to provide insights into what is expected from agile project managers.

Method: A qualitative, inductive content analysis approach using purposive sampling was used to identify 13 participants (comprising management and implementation team members) within a large South African insurance company. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with all participants.

Results: The management and implementation teams agreed that PM remains highly relevant in an agile environment for ensuring project governance including delivery, risk management, reporting and budgeting. There was, however, disagreement between the management and implementation teams on project management interaction with the implementation team. Management preferred a command and control type project manager, while the implementation team favoured a more inclusive, facilitative PM style.

Conclusion: To remain viable in an agile IS project implementation environment within large corporates, project managers need to be aware of what various stakeholders expect of them. They need to retain some of the classic PM functions while adapting to the interpersonal and collaborative requirements of the agile way.

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Author affiliations

Songezo Nkukwana, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Nicky H.D. Terblanche, University of Stellenbosch Business School, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


project management; agile; information systems


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ISSN: 2078-1865 (print) | ISSN: 1560-683X (online)

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