Somewhere in the middle, 44 percent
of the surveyed projects were considered
challenged—either they came in over
budget, late or without all the required
features and functions.
The brutal economic environment
took a heavy toll on many projects, particularly in banking and financing. “That
brought the overall numbers down,” says
Yet it’s not exactly as if IT projects were
faring all that well before the recession.
That’s where project managers have a
role to play.
“Project managers need to identify
the core factors that contribute to their
project success or failure so they can
improve their processes,” says Steve
Jovanovic, CEO of pmFAQtory LLC, a
management consultancy in Chicago,
Unfortunately, most companies either
don’t bother to evaluate lessons learned
from failed projects or they review them
without a formal way to apply any takeaways in the future.
“To improve the probability of project
success, you need a feedback loop, but in
many cases companies are too focused on
the next project to document, analyze
and learn from what happened on the last
one,” Mr. Jovanovic says.
under the umbrella of a program managed by the project management office
(PMO), says Mr. Jovanovic.
Once the megaproject is broken down,
all of the stakeholders need to be aligned
with individual project goals, and formal
measures and processes implemented so
results can be tracked.
“A lack of well-defined, proven and
repeatable processes is a big contributor to
project failure,” he says.
Yet it’s a fine line. Add too much
process and project teams can get bogged
down in details that don’t add value.
The Standish survey found that
organizations with a PMO and a strong
governance process do not necessarily
guarantee better outcomes.
“In some cases, compliance and governance processes caused programs to run
longer and to be delayed,” Mr. Johnson
That’s because companies don’t always
know what to govern and instead implement layers of control without evaluating
“Companies have to look at the value
that governance brings to the project
and how to streamline that process to
make it more efficient,” Mr. Johnson
says. “Otherwise it becomes a cycle.
Projects don’t do well, so you add
governance. Then they do worse and
you add more governance without ever
looking at what you get out of it.”
It often comes down to due diligence—
or a lack of it.
“Building a good governance model
requires that project teams collect data on
what tools, techniques and processes add value to
their projects based on project outcomes,” Mr.
Jovanovic says. “That data feeds the governance
structure because it indicates what makes a team
successful and identifies risks and impediments.”
Mr. Johnson agrees.
“For the next few years, project managers
need to stop focusing on the market and start
concentrating on project execution,” he says.
“That’s the key to project success.”
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
The Standish survey found that Web-based and government IT projects tended
to fare better, while megaprojects were
more likely to fail than smaller initiatives.
That last part doesn’t surprise Mr.
“Traditionally, companies doing monolithic
projects take on too much complexity and risk,” he
says. “These projects get a lot of attention and
resources, but there are so many moving parts it’s
hard to capture every requirement, manage change
effectively, communicate with and manage many
stakeholders, and achieve scope, time and cost goals.”
Project managers should consider divvying
larger projects up into smaller subprojects