In an ‘ideal-project world’ …
In an ‘ideal-project world’, all projects would be completed on time and within budget. A project plan would be created up front, everyone would understand and buy into the project work, everyone would do the work, no surprises would crop up, all would go in accordance with the project plan, and the project would be completed on time and within budget.
That ‘ideal-project world’ rarely, if ever, exists.
How does the ‘real-project world’ differ from the ‘ideal-project world’?
In the ‘real-project world’ …
- People fail to perform the Process called planning.
- People fail to perform the Process called communication.
- People fail to perform other Processes.
In the ‘real-project world’, People choose to do other things rather than do the Processes that cause projects to be successful.
The most-important question is, Why?
Why do People choose to do other things rather than do the Processes that cause projects to be successful?
A Google search found Project Management Institute’s 7 reasons for project failure. While the article is 14 years old, PMI hasn’t replaced it with a new list and people are still people so we can be comfortable using the PMI list as a starting point for understanding project failures.
Projects fail because People fail to …
- focus on business value, not technical detail,
- establish clear accountability for measured results,
- have consistent processes for managing unambiguous checkpoints,
- have a consistent methodology for planning and executing projects,
- include the customer at the beginning of the project and continually involve the customer as things change so that the required adjustments can be made together,
- manage and motivate people so that project efforts will experience a zone of optimal performance throughout its life, and
- provide the project team members the tools and techniques the need to produce consistently successful projects.
IT Projects Succeed When …
- People focus on business value, not technical detail
- Recently, we talked about the business value associated with cybersecurity projects. The way cyber-threat risks are escalating, cybersecurity projects can be viewed as an asset or a form of self-insurance. For example, Sem Ponnambalam, the President of xahive Inc. stated that cyber-attacks cost small to mid-sized businesses [SMBs] $200,000 on average. Basic cybersecurity projects, including employee training a very affordable in comparison. Of course, the technical aspects of the project must also be performed well.
- People establish clear accountability for measured results
- This accountability must exist throughout the organization. The leaders of the organization need to be accountable for oversight of the cost/benefit tied to each material IT project. The accountability burden cannot be placed only on the CISO’s or the CTO’s shoulders. Project expectations need to be reality tested prior to project approval. Being blunt, while results can and should be measured, the vision of the results needs to be clear and accurate up front.
- People have consistent processes for managing unambiguous checkpoints
- This is easier said than done. Numerous examples of project management software can be found by typing a few words into a search engine. It is much more difficult [pretty much impossible] to find off-the-shelf or in-the-cloud software that measure everything you will want to measure or provide reports the way you want to see them. So, compromises must be made. Often, these disconnects can be avoided by creating much simpler customized software tools.
- People have a consistent methodology for planning and executing IT projects
- It is good to look at this advice from two perspectives: first, from a” high level”, then from a “detail level”. From a high level it makes sense for any size of organization. Find people how know how to plan and let them do that work; find people who know how to execute and let them do that work. However, at the detail level this PMI advice works well for large organizations but not so well for SMBs. SMBs need reliable IT/tech project support.
- People include the customer at the beginning of the project and continually involve the customer as things change so that the required adjustments can be made together
- Now this is excellent advice. We cannot expect end users [customers] to embrace the results of our project decisions if they have not had the opportunity to share thoughts about their user experiences. Not too long ago, I was surprised to learn new medical software was launched at a hospital and the nurses at that hospital had not been asked to provide input into the software design. At the very least, customers and end users need to feel their opinions were considered.
- People manage and motivate other people so that project efforts will experience a zone of optimal performance throughout its life
- PMI states, “A project team made up of higher paid people with the right specialized skills is worth more per dollar than a group of lower cost people who need weeks or months of training before they can start to be productive.” That raises a question – How much more valuable are senior/experienced/skilled people than junior/inexperienced/less-skilled people? Our experiences with software projects, confirm the difference can be 10X to 20X … or more.
- People provide the project team members the Tools and Techniques the need to produce consistently successful projects
- People – every person will have a unique blend of technical strengths, achievement orientation, and pleasing personality [i.e., at least, pleasing-enough personality]
- Tools – things people create to relieve the human burden required to do tasks/processes.
- Techniques – processes that either tested and proven or otherwise.
Avoiding Project Failures
People, having unique personalities and character, bring both value and complication to projects. Sometimes, when they behave poorly, people inject personality challenges that can derail projects. As a rule, without disciplined leadership and processes people will struggle with projects and not meet project goals including “on time”, “on budget”, and “fully functional”. Similarly, if the tools and techniques used to design and deliver the project are not proven-successful before use, people will struggle with projects and not meet project goals.
People come to NeuStyle when they are struggling with software projects and experiencing sticky problems.
The best first step when we assist people who are having problems with software projects is performing an assessment of the project. We need to understand the overall goals, the tools and techniques, and the current state of problems. When this first step is taken, we must consider the people. Communication almost always needs to improve.
In some situations, the people implications are crucial. Most people want to perform work well. Most people take pride in the work they do. They do not plan to fail. Yet, projects experience major setbacks and sometimes are on the verge of complete failure.
To remedy your project problems, consider the people, the tools they used, and the techniques they performed.