Mentoring practices in Information Systems Project Management

Leong, Paul
Tan, Felix
MacDonell, Stephen
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis examines the adoption of mentoring practice across the Information Systems (IS) project management process in the context of project success improvement. The purpose of this research is to propose a model expanding on prevailing theories and research by explaining the nature and effects of mentoring practice adoption in IS project management (Gregor, 2006). This study adopted a two-part multiple-method research approach. As little was known about the nature and characteristics of IS project management mentoring in practice, an exploratory survey was conducted to assess the landscape of mentoring practice adoption. Practising IS project managers who were staff of multinational companies (MNCs) based in Malaysia were asked to relate their mentoring adoption experiences and perceptions as mentees across the IS project management process. Forty-six IS practising project managers participated in the initial web-based survey. Subsequently, in-depth one-to-one interviews were conducted using open-ended and semi-structured questions. To this end, McCracken’s (1988) long-interview technique was used to draw out the experiences and perceptions of interviewees in narrative form. Narratives were collected from twenty-one IS project managers who were a subset of the initial group surveyed. The collected interview narratives were analysed using the iterative and constant comparison analysis technique of Miles and Huberman (1994).

Drawing on a combination of theoretical frameworks, including Kolb’s theory of experiential learning (D. Kolb, 1984; D. A. Kolb et al., 1999), social exchange theory and communitarian theory (Gibb, 1999), the three models of mentoring (apprenticeship, competence and reflective models) (Maynard & Furlong, 1993), and the mentoring model of Anderson and Shannon (1995) this research has made significant contributions. This research not only contributes to IS literature but also IS project management practice and policy. The espoused theory of IS project management mentoring provides a better understanding of the requirements, nature, and extent of the role of mentoring in effective IS project management. In this regard, four key findings emerged from this study. Firstly, mentoring support was affirmed as an effective mechanism for project success improvement and problem-solving enhancement. Secondly, mentoring support nurtures IS project managers. Thirdly, learning is a key and effective outcome under IS project management mentoring; mentoring as a learning platform was efficacious. Fourthly, human capital can be fostered and social capital enriched through mentoring adoption. The study found that participating IS project managers were provided with tactical support towards project success over the duration of the project and, over the long term, their competencies were perceived as being enhanced. IS project management mentoring therefore brings about the suggestion of advancement and maturation of competencies to IS project managers. As for key contributions to IS project management practice and policy, this research underscores the efficacy of mentoring adoption in the soft-skill development, strategic overviews and development of key deliverables, and improvement of key project processes that are related to scheduling, staffing and costing. This research also brings knowledge of key impediments to mentoring practice adoption, and this can serve as early warning signals. Last but not least, the strengthening of IS project management competencies can be done by advocating purposeful adoption of IS project management mentoring practice and/or by institutionalizing the role of IS project mentors in IS projects. These pragmatic advices to practice and policy may lead a greater human capital investment realization of the person of IS project manager.

IS Project Management , Mentoring practice , IS Project Management mentoring , Project success , Soft skills , Information Systems
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