The current generation of instrumentation and telescope system projects for Astronomy represent significant challenges for Project Managers. The projects almost always include major technological advances with associated high levels of risk, will be a collaboration, probably involving several international boundaries and time zones, the scientists will want the end product yesterday and the funding bodies will only allow a fixed budget.
The UK ATC was one of the first astronomy organizations to employ professional project managers using bespoke project management techniques and now has a wealth of experience in planning and implementing such projects. Our record in recent years has certainly been world class and we continue to improve through the ongoing introduction of evolutionary changes in methodology, process and practice. For example, we now have well established pricing methodologies, risk management, fault logging, collaborative web tools and a comprehensive configuration management tool (Livelink), based on the CMII process advocated by the Institute of Configuration Management.
Internally the UK ATC operates a matrix management structure with the work organized into projects with well defined multi-disciplinary teams. All projects now have cash limited budgets and vary in size from as little as a staff year of effort to systems requiring well over 40+ staff years and £1M+ in industrial procurements etc.
Although the project managers report to the Head of Programme Delivery and Engineering, they are required to agree internal staff resourcing by consultation with the Heads of Engineering Groups and the Head of Strategic Development. The Heads of Group ensure that appropriate engineering procedures are applied across all projects in ways that assure product quality.
It is not uncommon for a project manager to work on several projects at a time. Currently a typical collaborative project would be KMOS or MOONS, though Project Managers will also be expected to cope with Design Studies (ELT Instrument Studies), local work packages for a major project (VISTA IR led by RAL) led from another Institute or as a Work Package Manager on a major procurement for something such as a telescope sub-system (VISTA Enclosure, VISTA Telescope etc).