Blog Subject Matters

Subscribe to Blog

Subscribe to Podcast

Newsletter Signup

 
 
 
 

Latest Tweets

News

Garden Leave

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Written by Jim Crear

It is an interesting phrase, “Garden Leave.” But its meaning is not a pleasant term about working at home in your garden. Rather, it used by some for making someone redundant or terminating theiremployment. Official definition: “Garden Leave” is the term given to a situation whereby an employee is required by the employer to remain away from work to serve out a period of notice at home (or “in the garden”).

This is what happened to CTO John Linwood at the BBC for a project called Digital Media Initiative (DMI) for the media business that cost £100 million and was shut down. This was a project that was in place and was already deemed in trouble prior to Linwood accepting the position at the BBC. Linwood pulled it from Siemens and brought it in-house, with a refund of £27.5 million. Upon project DMI being shut down Linwood was sacked for gross misconduct and the project’s failure despite all of the praise and successful things he had done for the BBC. Others were quick to point the finger and get the monkey off their backs.

However, Linwood fought back vigorously. He retained a solicitor and went through a process with appeals and an Employment Tribunal to prove he was unfairly sacked. Labor laws in the U.K. are very precise. It’s a long story, too long for this blog, but he won his case. It’s all about good documentation of events, as well as proving a conspiracy within the BBC to put the sole blame on him.

The point is that it was a classic breach of the teachings of the Standish Group and the CHAOS Chronicles. There was low user involvement, with conflicting priorities. There was a constant change in management. There was no executive sponsorship, and when they had an executive sponsor he never attended meetings—one of the “seven deadly sins,” abstinence. Linwood flagged the project red but was told to push on (more deadly sins of arrogance and overambition). When things were falling apart a plan was put in place with “fraudulence” (yet another deadly sin).

When will we ever learn that projects like DMI have a low chance of returning value? On the other hand, 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. One of the major parts of this service is breaking down large projects into micro-projects with rapid delivery. By focusing your project portfolio on value with rapid delivery, our service frees your organization to create value.

Our next CHAOS Tuesday is titled “Modernization in Place.” This is the first part of an eight-part series on modernizing legacy applications. For more information on this program, click on this event link.

Last Week’s PM2GO Advice Posts

Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur: is a book review by Jim Johnson.

Measurements: The Standish Group suggests that a successful project completion is contingent upon reaching specified goals.

Clear Business Objectives: Richard Soley says, “I think having a clear business objective is one of those phrases that is overused.”

Edification: Overview: The Standish Group suggests executive sponsorship begins with basic education on the project management process.

Chief Enabling Officer: Gloria Larson suggests that an executive sponsor be a Chief Enabling Officer.

 

Definition of Project Success

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

What is your definition of success?  Project Management Institute (PMI) would tell you on-time, on-budget, and on-target also known as the Triple Constraints and the Iron Triangle.  However, we have seen many projects that have met the Triple Constraints and did not return value to the organization or the users and executive sponsor were unsatisfied.   For the last 20 years each project in the CHAOS database had a single rating system. Successful projects were considered on-time, on-budget and on-target with some reasonable flexibility. Challenged projects were considered late, over budget or did not meet the target. Failed projects were canceled or not adopted by the users.  All projects were adjudicated by a Standish Advisor with our set of special rules.

We have spent the last six months coding our CHAOS database with the following attributes: on-time, on-budget, on-target (% requirements) and satisfied (very high to very low).  We already coded the database with value (very high to very low) and on strategic corporate goal (precise to distant).   We then issued a group of Dezider surveys.  In our surveys we asked SURF (Standish User Research Forum) members what is their definition of success.  We also had a open survey on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.  We did consider the open surveys, but for some technical reasons we did not include them in our analysis.

We only had one question on this survey and we asked SURF members what is your definition of success.  We had six distinct choices and all of the above.  The choices were on-budget, on-time, on-target (requirements), on-goal (organizational strategy), valuable, satisfied, and of course all the above.   We had 309 respondents to our Dezider Surveys on the definition of success. Fifteen percent (15%) of the respondents agreed with PMI by picking the first 3 choices. One-third of the respondents selected all of the above. Valuable came in as the top choice with 52% of the respondents casting it as one of their up to four votes. Other results show 32% said on-budget, on-time 30%, on-target 26%, on-goal 29%, and satisfied 41%.

Making inquiries into the CHAOS database we find that if you select all six attributes only 1.2% of projects meet that criterion. Therefore the third of respondents that chose all of the above would be disappointed 99% of the time. However if you selected a single attribute, like on-budget you would be successful 42% of the time.  The Standish Group believes that organizations should forget the triple constraints and focus on the value of their project portfolio, not individual projects. In this regard we have created ValueCHECK Optimization and Management Service. The ValueCHECK Optimization and Management Service use our current products of:  ValueCHECK Project Environmental Assessments, individual project assessments, OptiMix, and resolved project assessments. This is a complete service for organizations to outsource their project portfolio optimization and management to us on a continuous basis. This service will reduce overall project costs, decrease management frustrations, increase innovation, and increase the value of the organization’s portfolio as much as 50%.

   

Value as the Criteria for Success

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

The Standish Group estimates that in 2013 the worldwide yearly spending for software projects was $750 billion.  The United States accounted for about 40% of this number or about $300 billion. Europe spent about 25% or $200 billion.  Asia accounted for $100 billion.  The rest of the world spent the remaining $150 billion.  Canceled or failed projects were 16% or $120 billion. The United States portion was a little higher and the European portion was slightly lower.  Challenged projects, those that were late, cost more and off-target, were 48% or $360 billion.   Overruns vary with many legitimate reasons, but The Standish Group estimates in 2013 the cost of unintended worldwide overruns is about $80 billion; leaving the cost of worldwide project software failure to be about $200 billion.

However, we have seen many projects that have met the Triple Constraints or successful projects did not return value to the organization or the users and executive sponsor were unsatisfied.  In addition we have seen many challenged projects bring great value to the organization.   We think the better approach is to consider return on value than the Triple constraints.  In researching the $750 billion spent on software projects in 2013, about $200 billion had high value and another $330 billion had an average value.  The remainder had low to no value.   Some of the projects that had no to low value were considered successful and many of the high value projects ended up in the challenged column.

The Standish Group thinks that considering value is the most important criteria for success.  As an example, the United States Government has a distortional percent of the software spending of about $80 billion or 11% per year. However, the cost of their projects is ten times the cost of a similar project in the commercial sector.  For a project that would cost $60 million to develop in a commercial company the government will spend $600 million.  The government’s over spending reduces the value by 90% therefor the value of the $80 billion is down to $8 billion.  We know historically that 20% of the projects will be used therefore the value of the $80 billion is down to about $1.2 billion.

The Standish Group believes that organizations should forget the triple constraints and focus on the value of their project portfolio, not individual projects. In this regard we have created ValueCHECK Optimization and Management Service. The ValueCHECK Optimization and Management Service use our current products of:  ValueCHECK Project Environmental Skills Assessments, individual project assessments, OptiMix, and resolved project assessments. This is a complete service for organizations to outsource their project portfolio optimization and management to us on a continuous basis.

The service is done in three initial steps: Step 1: a skills assessment for any of the group that wants an IT project.  The skills assessment would include a walk through their PM and development process, a project environmental appraisal, and executive sponsor appraisal for current and potential sponsors. Step 2: A pre-project assessment and explosion. Each project would be broken into multiple small projects with firm deliverables.  Each of the small projects would have their own profile with all the constraints. Step 3: Optimization: We would feed all the projects into OptiMix.

OptiMix uses the patented process of converting logical constraints into linear constraints. The key to the approach is relativity. Relativity means the return on value, risk, cost and other constraints are based on the comparison to each of the small projects.  The organization would then complete the projects by the most valued priority. Follow-up:  Each quarter Standish Group advisors would go back to the organization for a few days and do:  a postmortem for completed projects, create profiles for new projects, update the current projects, and run the optimization to update the priorities.

This service will reduce overall project costs, decrease management frustrations, increase innovation, and increase the value of the organization’s portfolio on average of 35% and as much as 50%.

   

Cassandra’s Curse

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

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 healthcare.gov 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.”