You’ll read many statistics about why IT Projects fail – now read one solution

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David Cotgreave
If you like David's blogs - he is now a published author - Straight Talk on Project Management (VOLUME III)- Free eBook. Why not download your copy today. David Cotgreave MBA, BSc (hons), PRINCE II, is Professional Services Director at Stoneseed, with over 20 years’ experience in IT Consulting. David has worked with organisations such as BT Engage IT and KPMG, before founding Stoneseed in 2009 and has gained considerable business experience whilst working with a wide range of organisations across the UK and Europe carrying out a range of strategy, review and implementation projects. David is currently responsible for leading the Programme and Project Management services offered by Stoneseed. Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) from Stoneseed offers clients access to Project Management staff, resources and tools at a flexible and predictable cost via a fully Structured Managed Service.

You’ll read many statistics about why IT Projects fail – now read one solutionI came across a statistic that I’d jotted down in an old diary. If I’m reading my scribbled note correctly it says that 97% of organisations think that project management is critical to the success of their business.

That’s such a large percentage I had to check it … and it’s right – actually I found it on our website so it must be!

The statistic comes from the report ‘Insights and Trends: Current Portfolio, Programme and Project Management Practices’ conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers.

No-one ever goes into business hoping not to be successful.

Therefore, given that 97% have identified project management as a critical factor to achieving success, you’d expect that the same 97% would be masters at it.

Just anecdotally, you and I know that they are not. Indeed, back in 2014 IBM’s ‘Making change work – while the work keeps changing’ report found that just 40% had ‘the right skills in place’ to successfully manage future change projects.

Actually, let’s be fair. The PWC report was from a few years back – let’s be kind and instead ask this – do you think the majority of those 97% have moved or are moving forward towards mastery of the disciplines that they have identified as critical to their success? Again the statistics back your instinctive response – that they have not.

And there are many statistics that back this up.

In fact, since 2011, between 19-22% of all projects have failed (Standish Group Chaos Reports 2011-15) and with around half of all projects routinely falling into the ‘challenging’ category the average success rate for projects over the last 5 years is just less than 29%.

The next CHAOS Report was is published soon- do you think much has changed?

I don’t think that the answer is to close down PMOs, but the solution is just as simple.

The Solution

It’s alignment.

In many cases, IT projects that fail are not closely enough aligned to their sponsor’s business strategy.

Think back to that PWC survey figure. 97% thought Project Management was critical to business success. Project Management can only deliver on business expectations when it is deliberately designed to do so – when you intend it! Everything that you do must contribute to your business strategy.

Often Project Management offices fail to do this for reasons that, on the face of it, seem acceptable – budget restraints, lack of resources and skills or inadequate tools. I’ve heard these ‘reasons’ offered by PMs and I’ve seen their PMOs shut down soon after.

A change of mindset is needed. In 2016, budget restraints, lack of resources and skills or inadequate tools are not reasons – they are excuses.

You can now buy in Project Management resources, skills, and tools ‘as a Service’ as and when you need to. Furthermore, it can often be done without a net increase in your overall portfolio costs.

Maturity is often cited as a reason for failure. The development of a project management methodology and strategy that is suited to your specific business goals, resources, project scope, etc is essential for business case aligned success. Sponsors expect project teams to hit the ground running and when they don’t there’s friction. In 2016 assessments, governance, tools and people to improve your delivery capability and performance are also available ‘as a Service’. Now, your PMO can hit the ground running, in fact, you can even buy in a complete PMO these days – lock, stock, and barrel.

It can be hard aligning business missions with project management – remember I said the solution was simple – I didn’t say it was easy! Sometimes both business leaders and project leaders, brilliant in their respective areas, can struggle to find ways to align their goals. A business with a brilliant project leader and a brilliant business leader whose objectives are not aligned will never yield 100% of their potential. Usually, it’s because they’re so busy being brilliant that they just can’t see how.

A fresh pair of eyes can work magic. A Project Management Office Assessment can help refocus and refine or redesign your project management capabilities so that they are aligned with your business strategy.

Basically, you don’t have to do it all yourself.

Every part of the PM process, even the very process itself, can be bought in ‘as a Service’. It’s still not easy but it has never been ‘easier’ to align business missions and IT Projects.

When the new CHAOS Report is published for 2016, I doubt that the success and failure rates will have changed that much. However, within the circle of projects upon which I have an influence success rates are improving so I am hopeful for the CHAOS reports that get published towards the end of the decade.

The more that projects align with a business case, the more they will succeed – and that’s really all everyone wants.

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