Ending Project Failure

In the past decade, there has been a trend towards improvement in our ability to pull off projects. Project slippage and failure rates are falling, at least in those application areas that attract research interest, such as software development and pharmaceutical R&D. Cost and time overruns are down. Large companies have made the most dramatic improvement. In 1994, the chance of a Fortune 500 company's project coming in on time and on budget was 9 percent, its average cost $2.3 million. In 1998, that same project's chances of success had risen to 24 percent, while the average project cost fell to $1.2 million.5

Three factors explain these encouraging results: 1) a trend toward smaller projects which are more successful because they are less complex; 2) better project management; and 3) greater use of "standard infrastructures," such as those instituted through a Project Office. Large companies show up as more successful in the Standish Group study for one simple reason, in our view: large companies lead the pack in the establishment of enterprise-level project offices.6

The enterprise-level project office is so powerful because it helps to address the persistent management problems that plague projects:

►Poor tool implementation. Project managers who lack enterprise-wide multiproject planning, control, and tracking tools often find it impossible to comprehend the system as a whole.7 Such tools are rarely effectively implemented, trained for, or utilized except under the auspices of a project office. Buying a tool addresses the software issue; the "peopleware" issues must be addressed by a management entity that specializes in projects.

►Poor project management/managers. Most of the reasons technology projects fail are management-related rather than technical. Many enterprises have no processes in place to ensure that project managers are appropriately trained and evaluated.8 The average corporate HR department does not possess the knowledge to appropriately hire, train, supervise, and evaluate project management specialists, but an enterprise project office does.

►Lack of executive support for/understanding of projects. This correlates to project failure.9 An enterprise project office helps close the chasm between projects and executives. Those companies that have a senior-level executive who oversees the PMO reported greater project success rates (projects completed on time, on budget, and with all the original specifications) than those without.10

►Antiquated time-tracking processes. Accurate project resource tracking is imperative to successful project management. Project-based work requires new processes for reporting work progress and level of effort, but most companies' time-tracking processes are owned by and originate in the HR department, and most HR departments are still using an employment model developed in the early Industrial Age.11

►Lack of consistent methodology; lack of knowledge management. Enterprises that hold post-implementation reviews, harvest best practices and lessons learned, and identify reuse opportunities are laying the necessary groundwork for future successes.12 A Project Office shines as the repository for best practices in planning, estimating, risk assessment, scope containment, skills tracking, time and project reporting, maintaining and supporting methods and standards, and supporting the project manager.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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