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Cassandra’s Curse

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Written by Jim Johnson

Princess Cassandra of Troy had a gift to be able see the future.  However, after rejecting advancements from the God Apollo, Apollo cursed her. The curse was; from then on her words would not be taking seriously.  Sometime, I feel we have the Cassandra’s Curse for we have the uncanny ability to see the future, but people want to ignore us to promote their own agenda.  One example in 1992 we predicted that the distributed computing environment (DCE) was DOA.  Yet after the prediction, IBM invested an additional billion dollar to watch it fail.  In 1994 in a BusinessWeek issue Bill Gates proclaimed the Internet was a fad, in that very same issue we foresaw the Internet as the future of all commerce.   In fact our prediction for software and software products and projects had been so spot on that in the December 1999 issue of Software Magazine they called us the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Cassandra told the people of Troy not to bring the Greek’s gift of a Wooden Horse into the City of Troy or the city would be destroyed. Two year’s ago at a meeting at the National Academy of Scientist with executives of the Center of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) we told them that their plan for would fail.  We gave them alternatives to a more successful approach. However, like the people of Troy that ignored Cassandra, CMS ignored us and the political fail out was immense. In fact they ended up doing just what we recommended after the debacle.  They could have done it before the debacle if they had just listened to us and heeded our warning.

This is more than “I told you so”, because our predictions are based on a combination of history, data, experience and foresight.  In the last few months we have been looking at two major projects.  One project is the modernization of the business systems for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The other project is the transition to new administrator for the Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC).  In the case of the RMV we were asked to appraise it for the project office.   We declared that project DOA and suggested a modernization in place approach. The PMO manager brought forth our appraisal and recommendation to the executives of the RMV and was summarily terminated.  Cassandra lives in Massachusetts.

As far as the NPAC goes this paragraph is part of a filing we presented to the Federal Communication Commission. “We believe the transition to a new Number Portability Administration Center (NPAC) operator is a colossal task. The enormity of the effort has been grossly underestimated and the risks severely minimized. We also believe the anticipated savings will not be realized and costs will escalate out of sight.  It is our expert opinion and prediction that the project will suffer great delays, higher costs, and stakeholder frustration. In the end there is a very high likelihood the project will fail and be canceled. In the meantime, innovation will be stifled and a once vibrant competitive environment will suffocate”. Watch this space for updates to these two projects. Cassandra also lives in Washington, DC.

BTW: Would you like to achieve portfolio nirvana? One of the definitions of nirvana is the freedom of pain and worry.  This is the concept behind our Value Portfolio Optimization and Management Service.  Our Value Portfolio Optimization and Management Service is a forward thinking and predictive visualization of the value of your software investments. By focusing your project portfolio on value, our service frees your organization to create value.

Last Week’s PM2GO Advice Posts

Design Debt: Hans Mulder says you should clearly convey the cost for maintenance of programs to the decision-makers for projects. 

Multiple Owners: Bill Niemi says, “One of the worst projects I worked on was called FCAP (Fidelity Customer And Product profitability).“

Decision Process: Gloria Larson says, “In higher education, it takes much longer than any other type of organization I’m familiar with to come to a decision.

Velocity Steppingstone: The Standish Group recommends that projects should have small but significant deliverables.

Own Minds not Bodies: Timothy Chou says, “The key to being an executive is to having people understand your framework so they make the thousands of detailed micro-decision without having to get involved.”


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