Sunday, May 17, 2009

Getting better all the time?


You see the smiling, optimistic, fresh faces of the Beatles in the previous post? I want to believe, really, really want to believe, the numbers from PMI's survey. And I do, to some extent.

However, I wouldn't be "fair and balanced" if I didn't provide some recent news which seems to contradict, or at least contrast strongly against the PMI survey.

I'm referring to CHAOS. Not the top-secret bad-guy organization that Maxwell Smart (Agent 86, see recently-declassified photo on left) is always fighting along with his colleagues from CONTROL, but rather the reports issued periodically by the Standish Group of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

The latest report - in quite some contrast to the PMI report - shows a sustained upward trend in failed projects. The report organizes 'finished' projects into 3 categories, Successful (on time, under or at budget), Challenged (missed either the time or budget constraint, or both) and Failed (canceled and/or did not provide the scope they promised).

A press release about this from the Standish Group is here: . What you see above is my representation using their published data. You'll note that the percentage of failed projects not only increases, but kicks up in slope in this last measurement - which is, as my Ducth friends would say, niet goed!

This begs the question: why the disconnect? I really don't have the answer, although I have some very strong beliefs (which I will share later) about the reason for this uptick in project failures, beginning around the year 2002.

It also begs another question, one on which one of my blog viewers has already commented: can one be very "mature" in PM and still have a high failure rate? And, if so, what does that tell us about the value of PM Maturity?

I know I raise more questions than answers here, but I would like to challenge folks to reconcile the different views of PM that these sets of data represent?



Woody said...

One reason could be better and more focused project tracking... largely due to increased presence of project managers using better metrics.

Another factor could be more organizations tracking and defining work efforts as "projects" than in the past.

Also I understand Standish, and other project data aggregation services, typically compare final project data to the initial baseline. If that is true, the figures do not include changes -- approved changes. We are, overall, much better about incorporating and dealing with change than in the past.

Steven Romero, IT Governance Evangelist said...

I would suggest the level of project failure is due to poor performing PPM Processes (Project and Portfolio Management).

I can have great project management processes, but that won't provide the sound decision-making necessary to establish and maintain a reasoned and rational portfolio of projects.

PMs can do only so much to stem the tide of project failure. Until we see similar improvements in PPM processes, expect many of their projects to be doomed before they have the chance to apply their improved PM processes.

Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist

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