When you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

That snippet of Rush’s “Freewill” ran through my head after I read Michael Krigsman’s post on developers’ perspectives on IT failure.  What caused my earworm?  It was this section, dealing with IT priorities:

The survey breaks out IT quality priorities by role in the organization, and yields an interesting gap between the project managers and business stakeholders. As the following table shows, project managers prioritize budget and schedule while people in the business seek the best solution. 

More interesting to me were the portfolio and strategy implications of the answers.

  1. It didn’t seem like the respondents understood that these options would require trade offs…every option received over 50 percent. 
  2. Where are the resource trade offs?  Resource constraints are much “harder” than cash budgets in my experience.
  3. I’m not sure how well thought through the survey was.  “Shipping when the system is ready is more important than shipping on schedule” and “Delivering high quality is more important than delivering on time and on budget”.  These are almost the same trade off, even if the “high quality” question slips in “budget.”
  4. Left unexplored are the tradeoffs within the portfolio at large.  It is great to say you’re willing to trade time and resources for quality or ROI.  However, that’s a point analysis that leaves out the opportunities foregone. 

One of the reasons IT projects are under such time and resource pressure is that there’s a domino effect.  In other words, if one project slips, the rest of the portfolio slips because you can’t simply plug in new resources, there are technical dependencies, etc.   And what else slips?  The benefits from these future projects.

Great example of value of architecture governance (RT @mkrigsman #CIO #entarch)

Michael Krigsman received a lot of good feedback on his post about getting IT and business together. The second point was top of mind as we’re standing up new and improved architecture governance.

A basic governance checklist can catch the type of folly Michael describes. A project that proposes to create an app entirely from scratch — like Michael’s example — should stand out as an initiative to receive heightened scrutiny. Well, it should if you have a set of standards! But that’s another post!

Krigsman’s 2012 trends: three quick takes

The always valuable Michael Krigsman (@mkrigsman, IT failures blog here) weighs in with a 2012 prediction: that rapid implementation will get more sustained focus.  I believe that there has been considerable progress over the years in improving both ERP implementations and ERP sustainability (see here for a bit of the bad old days).  However, there’s room for further improvement, especially in achieving consistent success.  Here’s my quick take on the three initiatives Michael highlighted:

Own your project’s story (HT @MelanieDuzyj and @mkrigsman)

We all should know how critical project communication is to project success.   A compelling story can build strong sponsorship and sustain stakeholder commitment, even in the most challenging of circumstances (also see Michael Krigsman’s project success checklist) .  However, many project managers assume that their audiences — or even worse, key influencers and “re-communicators” — understand the story as well as they do.

The group blog at BlissPR has a useful post by Julie Johnson on “Getting the Details Right“.  I’ve often suggested that project managers leverage what their PR professionals more.  IMO, the ability to influence is an essential behavior for an initiative leader.  Why not listen and learn from people who know?

In this case, the lessons for driving accurate press coverage apply well to any project that needs to own and drive its story.  Simply substitute “project” for “company” or “industry”, and “stakeholders” for “media”. 

  • It’s more important than ever for a company to take control of its reputation – after all, you either control your reputation or someone else will
  • Educating media about a company or an industry can be even more important than garnering coverage
  • The story you tell must be simple – especially when the truth is complicated

SAP’s Sleeping Product Giant

Michael Krigsman and I had a chance to chat last week — he recorded a podcast w/ me that will be up on his blog before too long — and thankfully the chat got my blogging mojo going again. 

I don’t want to steal our podcast’s thunder, so I’ll focus on a tangent from our call — SAP’s innovation problem.  Michael himself has hoped that SAP’s leadership change would help to bring more innovation to market.  Ray Wang put it more bluntly in his take on Leo’s ouster:

[T]he issue is not sales. It’s products. Snabe and Vishal will need strong product vision to right SAP and point it in a forward direction. Engineering and products need more attention to bring out trapped innovation at SAP.

“Trapped innovation”… that’s so much of what I saw at SAP.  There are many cool technologies floating around, but they don’t fit in the “margin now” mindset that has pervaded the company.   The company is stuck in the classic [successful]  innovator’s dilemma:

By only pursuing “sustaining innovations” that perpetuate what has historically helped them succeed, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations”.

Even worse,  SAP had deluded themselves into thinking they were responding appropriately — what was marketed as real innovation was simply new wine in old skins.  Exhibit 1 — 2007-2009 versions of Business ByDesign.

Podcast on barriers to successful IT/CRM

Michael Krigsman over at IT Project Failures hosted the first in what he hopes will be a regular series of “Town Hall” podcasts (here)  It was originally supposed to be a meet-up, but the weather was dodgy at best so the session went virtual. 

Anyway, Paul Greenberg moderated an excellent discussion that covered a lot of ground.  As Michael notes, Paul’s CRM background focused the conversation

…on issues drawn from customer relationship management. CRM brings together core business functions — how a company interacts with customers — with technology intended to streamline and improve those relationships. Since these goals are business-oriented, CRM offers excellent examples of non-technical failures connected with technology implementation projects. For example, one participant noted corporate managers sometimes deploy CRM hoping to control end-users, who in turn reject the system in a predictable failure. 

Be warned… I jump in at about the 30 minutes mark!

Projects can die a good death

Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my project.  Prepare to die.

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my project. Prepare to die.

Nice to see that projects are being ended more often than I would have thought.  Michael Krigsman (here) points to a survey (here) where just under 45 percent of the surveyed organizations claimed to have ended a IT project before it was fully implemented.

Roughly half of these projects were stopped for business-related reasons: changed priorities or business needs or because they didn’t align with business strategy.  Another 40 percent were ended because of what sound like project execution issues: they didn’t deliver as promised or were over budget.

A big miss IMO, is that the survey results don’t note the phase in which these projects were ended or how much of the budgeted cost was spent.  That would have given more insight into how effective the portfolio review processes really were.

Based on my experience, projects stopped for business reasons experience a quick and efficient death.  Any rudimentary portfolio process — even if informal — usually catches these issues earlier and dispatches them in such a way that all know that it was the right thing to do.  Sadly, poorly executed projects often become undead zombies or vampires — hiding and spending in the dark — until someone finally puts a stake in their hearts (FYI, zombie execution techniques here).

The ultimate in IT inside->out thinking

Geek and Poke and their dueling IT and business spells

Geek and Poke exchange IT and business spells

Michael Krigsman post on the IT Utopia (here) makes a good bookend to my post riffing on Esther Dyson’s “worker’s paradise” quote (here). 

Talk about an inside->out perspective!  It is as if the IT person expects that once he/she invokes a technology incantation the poor, slow, business folks will bow to their masters in gratitude.

While business counterparts have an obligation to get the implications of technology, technologists must in turn rouse themselves to help the business make that connection.

Value of PM in Business Transformation

I forget to whom I should give the hat tip on this topic, but Here’s a study by Logica that highlights what makes change “Winners” successful (study here, may require registration).  As you can see, project management was a differentiator in business transformation, which of course I think is great.

My take is that being good at PM is necessary, but not sufficient, to be good at change.  That’s because being better at PM should mean that one is better at delivering initiatives of any type.  In other words, PM excellence should make change-heavy initiatives more successful — but that’s because PM helps when delivering all initiatives.

Remembered the source… hat tip to Michael Krigsman at IT Project Failures.

Giving up on Web 2.0 as penance?

Tom Davenport‘s latest post (here) on Harvard Business Online channels the tone of today’s conventional wisdom.  Many commentators on the Panic of 2008 — including Davenport — are invoking the Great Depression and its harsh lessons.  I guess hairshirts and flagellant confraternities will be coming back next.

While I love mortification of the flesh as much as anyone, I think Davenport’s seriously off-track here.  He’s gone gloom-and-doom just as social media is doing some heavy lifting.  An example of Enterprise 2.0 traction, you say?  OK, what does it say when a guy like Michael Krigsman — who is on the IT Project Failures beat, for goodness sake — praises Enterprise 2.0 efforts from SAP (here) and Oracle (here)?

I hate to bad-rap a fellow Babsonian, but maybe Tom needs to get out of Starbucks more…

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