top of page

How to successfuly manage IT projects?

Doctor Soner Hewelt

Online DBA Deutsch (2020-2023)

Business Science Institute



Digitalization and competitive factors in the automotive industry have led to a substantial increase in the complexity of IT projects - and thus the demands on the skills of IT project managers. Although professionally planned IT digitalization projects are gaining influence and validity, almost 19% of planned projects fail and another 47% of projects are questioned with regard to schedule and budget overruns (Standish Group, 2020). In addition to unrealistic project planning, important trigger mechanisms include the lack of inclusion of necessary project environment factors and the lack of key competencies of project managers (Schabel, 2015). My DBA thesis therefore investigates the determinants of successful IT project management in the German automotive industry, taking into account the individual key competencies of IT project managers as well as aspects of the organizational and management environment.

Research Impacts

My research helped me to develop two assessment tools for the preparation of successful IT projects. They can be used for tailor-made personnel initiatives as well as inherent orientation levels for increasing professionalization in the context of competence consulting, which not only demonstrate their added value on an individual level, but also provide considerable economic benefits for companies in the German automotive sector through demand-oriented competence measures.

The first assessment tool concerns the traditional and digital core competencies of (future) IT project managers. It combines both self-assessment and external assessment of the required levels of key competencies, depending on the complexity of the IT project. The possible gaps between the required and actual competence levels help to assess whether a person is "ready for the job" of managing an IT project and to determine the need for targeted training. To achieve this, IT project managers can enter their self-assessments for the relevant key competencies in the assessment tool, and the relevant supervisor can enter their external assessment in the relevant areas.

In order to achieve the goal of a realistic assessment and, based on this, to close any competence gaps through appropriate measures, it is important that the protagonists carry out an open and self-critical assessment in this context. In the final step of the assessment, the appropriate qualification measures are determined in the appropriate column. This process requires a consensual definition of qualification measures in line with the requirements between IT project managers and their superiors.

The respective attributes of the core competencies serve primarily to ensure a high level of accuracy in the practical assessment procedure for its. In addition, the self-assessment and external assessment tool store the fixed assignments corresponding to the specific project classifications. These classifications are tailored to each assessment, based on the intended project class, as delineated by Gessler (2016):

  • Project Class A: Comprehensive and strategic IT projects with high expenditure

  • Project Class B: Strategic and departmental IT projects

  • Project Class C: Comprehensive IT projects with medium expenditure

  • Project Class D: Smaller IT projects with low spend

The second assessment tool is a checklist of environmental factors for successful IT management. These include the interaction between IT project managers and their superiors, the role of HR management in the project context, and the need for flexible organizational structures in the automotive industry. The checklist focuses in detail on the following points and recommends that they be addressed before the project begins:

Collaboration between IT project managers and their superiors:

For effective project collaboration, line managers should provide strong and supportive guidance to their IT project managers and the entire project team throughout the life of the project in order to reduce the imbalances and barriers that arise at the collaborative level during the course of a project. In addition, superiors should provide their IT project managers with authorizations and approvals for the relevant factors in the project environment in order to create the elementary conditions for a smooth project process and a highly motivated team orientation without major external disruptions in the implementation of the objectives.

Human Resources Management:

The role of HR management as another environmental factor in IT projects should offer IT project managers and other project experts an integral process of convergent measures for the development of traditional and digital core competencies, conceptualized on the basis of the respective IT project process models and according to a three-stage competence scale according to North (2003). In order to fill potential vacancies in IT projects in a timely manner, HR management should ask external applicants more explicitly and analytically about their existing project skills during the recruitment process and, on this basis, apply the probationary period regulation for new IT project employees more restrictively in order to ensure a high level of quality in subsequent IT project work.

- Organizational structures:

The results of this work showed that it is difficult to recruit the necessary project experts due to the rigid organizational structures in the automotive industry and the vested interests of superiors from other departments. The interviewees also substantiated this by stating that the involvement of experienced project experts from other areas in their own IT project can ensure a robust IT project implementation with an extended focus on results. Consequently, the results of this study suggest that in order to overcome these organizational barriers, the IT steering committee, which is seen as a high decision-making authority for IT projects, should approve the integration of IT experts from other parts of the organization.

In addition, the IT Steering Committee, in its role, should give priority to providing the IT Project Managers concerned with sufficient authority to achieve the necessary performance for the IT project and, from an intra-individual perspective, to ensure a high level of motivation for the IT Project Managers during the project period. From a broader organizational perspective, the IT Project Managers concerned should also be given the legitimacy to participate in all meetings of the IT Steering Committee related to their own IT project in a mandate-oriented manner and to have an authoritative say based on their technical expertise.

Research Foundations

My dissertation is based on several research areas.

On the one hand, in view of the intensive transformation effects in the world of work, the focus of my dissertation was placed on the classical core competences, which, according to Kauffeld (2014), consist of individual types of competences such as professional, social and personal competences.

On the other hand, the gradual increase of digitalization projects in the German automotive sector prompted the integration, in addition to the classical core competences, of newer types of competences into my scientific work. Based on the recommendations of the DGFP (2016), the so-called digital key competences, which consist of personal responsibility, communication skills, networking skills and agility, were used thematically.

Furthermore, due to the practical and widespread use of Gessler's (2016) model, which is employed in IT projects for the analysis of the project environment and is characterized by its high reliability, this central theoretical basis was also used for the empirical elaboration. Gessler's (2016) model congruently shows that project environment determinants are highly relevant for the robust and successful implementation of IT projects.

Based on this, the following project environment determinants were considered for the scientific elaboration in my dissertation:

  • Level of interaction between superiors and IT project managers,

  • Existing organizational structures in the interaction area of the project,

  • Activities of human resource management in relation to the necessary competence measures for IT project participants before the start of the project.

Research methodology

This research is based on an inductive research design and qualitative methods with the aim to identify 'soft' aspects from practice and to meet the criteria of intersubjectivity, transparency and scope. Twenty semi-structured expert interviews were conducted with experienced IT project management professionals in the automotive industry.

In order to ensure a high level of quality through a strict approach to data analysis according to Mayring (2015), 9 categories were defined in advance in order to assign the individual interview results schematically to the respective categories. Based on this, a total of 718 quotes were paraphrased during the data analysis and 1013 quotes were summarized and assigned to the respective nine categories from this research. All data collected were coded using MAXQDA software.

Opinions/statements of the professors

The scientific questions of this dissertation are highly topical and valuable in the context of the current changes in the automotive industry, driven by the transformation of mobility concepts and basic technical structures, as well as in the context of the management challenges in the automotive industry (Prof. Hansjosten, reviewer).

This is an excellent and impressive work that shows how much the author has delved into theory and analysis. The work deserves great praise for its success in combining a strong practical relevance with a foundation in the academic literature (Prof. Kallmünzer, reviewer).


Further reading

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Personalführung. (2016). Kompetenzen im digitalisierten Unternehmen - Ergebnisse aus Expertenkreisen im Rahmen eines BMWi-geförderten Forschungsprojekts. Abgerufen von


Gessler, M. (2016). Kompetenzbasiertes Projektmanagement (PM3). Handbuch für die Projektarbeit, Qualifizierung und Zertifizierung auf Basis der IPMA Competence Baseline Version 3.0 (8. Aufl.), Nürnberg: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement e.V.


Gong, C., & Ribiere, V. (2021). Developing a unified definition of digital transformation. Technovation, 102, 102217.


Kauffeld, S. (2014). Arbeits-, Organisations- und Personalpsychologie für Bachelor (2. Aufl.). Berlin: Springer.


Kohli, R., & Melville, N. P. (2019). Digital innovation: A review and synthesis. Information Systems Journal, 29(1), 200-223.


Mayring, P. (2015). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse: Grundlagen und Techniken (12. Aufl.). Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag.



Automotive sector, Digitalization, IT Project Management, Project environment, Key Competences.



bottom of page