More on why projects fail

This post on top reasons for IT project failure by Ron Sheldrick has up on LinkedIn for a while. Here were my two cents, nothing new if you’ve followed for a while:

@James Pastor [a fellow commenter] hit on the scope issue early on in this thread. Back in my SAP days we found that poor knowledge of the contract and SOW — especially among the project team and contractors — was a common thread among troubled projects. The strategic assumptions that underpinned the initiative were lost as the project devolved into satifying immediate, tactical needs…which deviated from the original plan.

We also found that stakeholder and communications went begging. While these stakeholder and communications management techniques are simple in form, we found that many project managers can’t muster the motivation or confidence to execute against them consistently. These “symptoms” are great non-obvious indicators for project health:

  • Projects that consistently linked stakeholder analysis, communications planning, and plan execution stayed out of trouble.
  • Project managers who did not fit into, or could not adapt to, customer cultures, mission-critical projects, etc. were reluctant to escalate projects quickly enough.
  • The most frequent communications mistake was failure to execute planned executive-level messaging, which eroded the project manager’s position in the eyes of sponsors and other leaders.

These stakeholder management findings correspond with recent external studies noting that communication breakdowns – especially “keeping quiet” about known risks or issues – are a primary driver of project failures.

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.

What is the deal w/ Technorati?

Does anyone have any idea what’s up w/ Technorati?  It seems like they’ve had recurring index, link, and authority update issues since the beginning of the year.  I’d like to rely on them — I see backlinks and other comments there I can’t see other places.

Also, I’m surprised Michael Krigsman hasn’t posted on them again.  I’m starting to wonder if they really did get to the bottom of what ailed them six months ago (Michael’s “kudos” post here).

Q2 Inbound Links and Comments — Thanks and Kudos

Links and comments are the about the only way for me to know if I’m writing something interesting, useful, or at least provocative.  I appreciate each and every one.

Thanks to the following folks for linking to Crossderry this past quarter…

  • The folks over at relentless PR, especially Leo Bottary (here and here)
  • Bas at Project Shrink (here)
  • Scott Middleton (here)
  • Mary Adams at Hybrid Vigor (here)
  • Rafael at Better Projects (here)
  • Miguel at eme ka eme (here)

Also, thank you to those who commented… (many of the folks above commented as well, but I won’t duplicate)

  • Vinnie Mirchandani at Deal Architect (here)
  • Charles Green at Trusted Advisor (here)
  • Jonathan Becher at Manage by Walking Around (here)
  • Michael Krigsman at IT Project Failures (here)
  • Patti Choby (here)
  • Rich Maltzman at Scope Crepe (here)
  • Markus at Leadership Briefing (here)
  • One of the gang at PM Think (here)
  • Craig Brown at Better Projects (here)
  • Bill at Projects Possible (here)
  • lazymale at lap31 (here)

Apologies if I missed anyone…  Thanks again, Paul

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