Are your projects failing? How to avoid the Pitfalls

In a recently published article entitled Why Projects Fail (And How to Avoid the Pitfalls) published by Enterprise Systems, Senior Director of Strategy for Oracle Projects Colleen Baumbach outlines many of the common mistakes that lead to project failure.

I think one of the best points Ms. Baumbach makes is at the end where she says the accumulated years of project failures almost creates a mindset from the start that a project is doomed.  As she notes, there are countless studies that have been prepared showing how dismal project success rates are.

How are companies addressing this?  According to a Forrester study published in early 2007, twenty-six percent of IT leaders planned to hire project managers and 59 percent planned to train their current staff in project management in 2007.  They noted that those numbers changed very little from 2002.

Further reasoning behind the rush to acquire or train more qualified project managers: 

“The reason for the continued emphasis on project management skills is because IT’s value to business remains contingent on it’s ability to deliver projects which meet business requirements both on time and on budget. IT staff accustomed to more technical roles struggle to transition to project management, CIO’s argue, and complain that educational institutions are not putting adequate focus on these skills through coursework.”

It should be a good time to be a project manager as long as you know how to avoid the pitfalls.

CFO’s rate Data Integrity a Critical Issue

In a recent article from Baseline titled, One in Nine CFOs See High Return Benefits from IT, they report that of the 629 CFO’s surveyed, close to half of them rate improving data quality in their enterprise as a critical issue.

Here in Oracle Projects one of our greatest assets has always been to promote our tight integration with the rest of the E-Business Suite, such as Financial’s and HR.  When products are built from the ground up to be integrated together, you eliminate many of the problems that occur from having disparate 3rd party systems all trying to share data.

Even if you must use special best-of-breed or niche products to help manage your business, then CFO’s and CIO’s should at least look into our AIA strategy to help them build tighter integration and hence improve their data integrity.

PMXPO – Final Thoughts

I guess I didn’t get back to my thoughts on this cool virtual conference that day but wanted to get it done before I forget!

What did I like:

  • No travel to a conference!
  • Ability to pop in and out of sessions as I liked
  • Easily browse the vendor offerings and chat if you’d like
  • Could continue to work while listening
  • Their briefcase feature made grabbing vendor and presentation information extremely easy – no having to leave to someone’s website to get materials
  • One click entry of contests (where is my Xbox 360 bundle or iPod Touch??)  Since you’re logged in I liked the fact they didn’t make you have to re-enter any information or fill out a contact card
  • Reminders for presentations that come in your email so you don’t miss a session
  • All presentations and materials are available later if you missed a session

What I wasn’t so hot on:

  • You could easily tune out because you’re continuing to work – next thing you know you missed 5-10 minutes of what the speaker said or have no context of the slide you’re looking at
  • The content was pretty much focused on new Project Managers – both myself and a couple of colleagues that attended didn’t find many sessions all that riveting
  • The networking is very difficult to do – you basically know a name and company (sometimes!) of a person and most people didn’t even put a picture on their avatar.  I can’t imagine you’d ever really meet someone new on this format unless you want to pester someone with a message.

Those are my top of the head thoughts.  Overall I thought it looked fantastic – they did a great job making it look clean and professional.  I would definitely attend next year although I hope the topics presented get a little bit more out of the box for more experienced PM’s.  Maybe they can offer more than one session at a time to be able to cover more ground in the day and let people choose what interests them.

PMXPO – It’s better than I expected!

Just a heads up that I’m attending the virtual PMXPO 2008 right now.  It is much cooler than I thought it would be.  It’s just like being at a conference without all the hassles of travel and that annyoing thing called walking between sessions and booths!

Right now I’m listening to the keynote speaker and there are several more sessions coming throughout the day.  I don’t think it’s too late to sign up so just go to http://events.unisfair.com/rt/pmexpo and sign up now.  I’ll have more details on what I liked about it later.

OpenWorld 2008 – Open for Business

In case you missed it, registration for OpenWorld 2008 – the premiere event for anything related to Oracle each year – is now open.  I happened to be at our HQ the last couple of weeks and got to scout out a possible location for our annual Projects party, typically held on the Tuesday night of OOW.

I can’t say where the location is of course, but I wanted to leave you with a little taste of what the view COULD look like if we go with this spot.

 

 

8 Ways to Save your next Project…and how we can make it happen!

On the Baseline site recently there was an article posted about the recurring theme of IT projects running chronically late.  The title of the article is 8 Ways to Save Your Next Project.

Here I’m taking that article and giving it an Oracle spin!

1. Get your head out of the software

Most project managers spend too much time in their project-planning applications and not enough time doing the briefing and communicating for which they are solely responsible. You should be spending the bulk of your time talking to and corresponding with project constituents – your team, the stakeholders, vendors, consultants and key end-users. The “soft” skill of communication is integral to project success.

Oracle Spin: Totally agree!  Our Project Collaboration module pushes the task of tracking progress and creating issues and managing documents and deliverables to your team members.  Why have the PM have to ask for status updates and then enter those when it’s best done if the hands of the task owners?

 2. Plan and define as much as possible—but don’t go overboard

A key component of project management is the thorough and meticulous planning of every aspect of a project, but a perfectionist could spend all his or her time in the planning stage. There’s no way to anticipate every variable so at some point, you have to pull the trigger.

Project managers are increasingly using rapid project deployments and iterative models that have been successful in the software development world. These models are based on the principle that in some ways it’s better to start the project and see what you’re up against.

Oracle Spin: Our project creation templates take the pain out of making new projects!  Why create a project from scratch when you already know 80% of what you want it to look like because you’re doing the same thing over and over?  From pre-defined templates with most of your relevant information included, to actually choosing a past project to copy from to build your new project, we’ve got you covered when it comes to saving time setting up your details.

3. Manage scope creep—for real

Like a turkey on Thanksgiving, you can rely on the fact that the project you think you’re heading for may bare only a passing resemblance to the one you end up with. With the increasing complexity of data centers and the Pandora’s box of surprises once you get under the hood, it’s advisable to game out and document the potential sources of scope creep. For instance, the team may want to take a different approach than planned, management may want to change, add or expand the deliverables or you may uncover a technical aspect you didn’t know existed.

Oracle Spin: Our Change and Issue management feature helps you keep on top of those constant changes that occur in your projects and even lets you see the impact of accepting a change request before you approve it!

4. Don’t be lazy with risk management

If you need 200 servers delivered at the same time for a worldwide mail server upgrade, it’s not enough to know what the risk is if the vendor doesn’t deliver. It’s time to manage the risk by deciding ahead of time that, as reliable as your vendor has been in the past, there’s little margin for error. Going with two or three vendors might be more complicated but in the end, it may save your project if only 20 severs aren’t delivered on time instead of 200.

Oracle Spin: Nothing to spin here since we believe Risk Management is something every good PM will do – in this scenario it’s a business decision that just might make sense for the given project.  If you want, you can model several different versions of a budget under various costing scenarios by different vendors so you can see what cost impact that redundancy will have.

5. Get a grip on expectations

Ask vendors and consultants for the best, most likely and worst-case scenarios and then use your own resources to calculate the aggregated risk so you can determine the probable outcome.

There are risk management software applications that can help you do the job. There’s no way to guarantee that a project won’t be delayed or go over budget, but taking off the rose-colored glasses will reduce the likelihood of extreme variances.

Oracle Spin: Check out one of our newest acquisitions called Crystal Ball – this best of breed predictive modelling software suite of analytical tools includes Monte Carlo simulation, optimization, and forecasting.

6. Govern with strength

Even with all the good work you did up front, problems and roadblocks will surely arise. Don’t blow it when it comes to actually addressing the problems. To the degree you can, refer to the approaches you documented and discussed with your team. If planned properly, your team should be able to tackle the problems early on before they become major hindrances.

Depending on the event, governance may include gaining approval from management to sign off on project changes that effect the project budget or time frame beyond a certain point. For example, if changing direction means the project will cost 10 percent more and take 10 percent longer, it may be time to bring senior stakeholders into the loop.

Oracle Spin: Again I refer to our Issue and Change Management features of our product which will help you assess the impact of unplanned project bumps.  If you’ve tracked an Issue (and if you’re using Project Collaboration, any team member can create an Issue!) and now it’s time has come, you can easily roll it over into a change request and route it for approval.

If you need enterprise strength Governance, check out our complete solution here!

7. Prepare for intervention

If your approaches are better in theory than in practice, it might be time to intervene with the project plan. Create an intervention plan before the project starts and communicate the plan to everyone directly and indirectly involved. The plan may include steps to take when adding resources, for assessing project-management practices and even changing the project leader.

Oracle Spin: Oracle Projects allows you to store and share documents with all of your team members to keep track of important items such as the Charter, Statement of Work, Risk and Compliance Procedures, templates etc.

8. Drive behavior to use the technology

Whatever you do, don’t rest on your laurels when the technical aspects of the project are completed. Creating a plan to ensure that people actually use the technology you just spent 18 months implementing will serve you well. If you and your organization want to see your expected return on investment, make sure you have a hand in educating and training users.

Oracle Spin: And if you want to see that your project ROI has been positive, be sure to use our Earned Value reports and calculations as you progress through the project.  So even if the end users decide they really didn’t need that whizz-bang new application that you built, at least you’ll make sure you were managing your project to expectations and within budget and you’ll have a great story as you’re looking for your next project to run!