Let’s face it… all projects begin in the “red” condition. Odds are they will not deliver what they are expected to deliver on time, or in budget. Everyone, all the way up to the CIO, needs to accept this fact as reality. Although this outlook is on the pessimistic side, accepting it does not make you negative. It makes you realistic.
So, since the research tells us a project is likely to fail, whose job is it to make project management performance stronger?
If you are a CIO (or other senior IT manager) it’s YOURS. If you are a project manager, you deserve the support you need from them in order to be successful. It can’t be done solo. CIOs need to stop saying they “trust” their project managers. It’s not the project manager’s job to focus on the factors that drive performance. It’s theirs.
The factors are no secret. If CIOs don’t know what things drive project performance, then they are part of the problem. Dozens of freely accessible resources have been published that have them identified. For example, see Dr. Leon Kappelman’s study published in the ISM journal on failed IT projects titled Early Warning Signs of It Project Failure: The Dominant Dozen. The study describes 12 people and project-related IT project risks, based on “early warning sign” data.
On the other hand, some CIO’s do know what the key performance indicators are. They just choose not to know when things are going south, because they’d rather be in denial. That enables them to avoid dealing with challenging problems that may arise. (Yes, the high likelihood of self-deception is a proven fact. See the scientific journal article on – The evolution and psychology of self-deception.) To make matters even worse, those same CIOs who already know what drives performance will often punish the employees who try to give them the truth. Project managers who try to share the key, objective information to reveal to the CIO what is really going on often end up regretting it.
This isn’t just a problem for a handful of project managers, in a handful of organizations. In fact, this problem has gotten so bad in the public sector that Congress actually had to pass a law to “strengthen CIO authority” to help ensure proper project governance.
“Federal IT projects have also failed due to a lack of oversight and governance. Executive-level governance and oversight across the government has often been ineffective, specifically from chief information officers (CIO). … This has also been highlighted by Congress—recently enacted law is intended to strengthen CIO authority and provide the oversight IT projects need.” Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, Pub. L. No. 113-291, § 831(a) (Dec. 19, 2014)
It certainly is a complex process to govern a project portfolio. It’s even harder to focus on the factors that drive performance.
So, why not address this complexity by simplifying the collection, analysis, and reporting of the factors that drive project performance. We are all capable of knowing what they are. We just need to step up, like the State of Georgia has, to make the project governance process more effective.
The State of Georgia is now collecting objective, timely, and relevant project information. By doing so, they have significantly improved the governance process (for example, a 90% reduction in time to compile and review project status conditions with senior IT governance executives.) Teresa Reilly, director of Georgia’s Enterprise Project Management Office, was able to give “project managers more time to do the analysis and find out what’s really going on.” The result: millions in savings from avoided rework, and more importantly, project managers that have the senior management support they need to focus on the factors that drive project outcomes.
Overall, senior IT managers and CIOs need to be bolder. So much depends on project management. After all, project managers are the ones who build successful futures for their organizations.
So much more can be accomplished if senior IT managers and CIOs stop senselessly wasting resources, pretending that things will fix themselves. They need to stop ignoring the evidence that a problem is creeping up during a project, and step in to ensure project success.
About the Author
As a project management advisor with 30+ years’ experience working at Computer Aid, Inc. (CAI), Joe Hessmiller brings a wealth of experience and industry knowledge with him. Joe has been in the IT industry for almost 40 years, and has consulted with executives from Fortune 500 companies and large public sector agencies. He also has experience running both small and large scale projects, and managed several business units at CAI. Joe currently leads the marketing department where he conducts research for product development and improvement. Joe is regularly asked to speak on IT project management in front of various organizations, such as the Project Management Institute chapter events.
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