Category Archives: Governance

Major Projects Part 1

Some years ago I posted about the comments made by Sir Edward Leigh in regard to the conduct of major projects when he retired as Chairman of the UK Parliaments Public Accounts Committee.

It would seem that the comments made then are still pertinent today, perhaps even more so. My memory was jogged by the recent report from the Taxpayers Union of the apparent massive blowout in a new IRD computer system to handle changes to child support. Then I read the articles in The Dominion Post this morning regarding the transformation project underway at IRD.

The objectives of the changes are not unreasonable, what concerns me is the scale and potential complexity of the project.  In particular this comes at a time when IRD are looking at a massive project to replace existing and aged systems.

I intend to look at the issues around major projects in a series of posts over the next few weeks. My intent is to start with what appears at first sight to be a major blow-out, but on review may come up with a number of different questions requiring answer.

As background I have linked to Sir Edward’s letter, Edward_Leigh_Letter_28_March_2010 and to the IRD report on the child support system  Taxation Annual Rates for 201516 Research and Development and Remedial Matters Bill. In addition there is a link as well to a relevant McKinsey Quarterly article,  Delivering large-scale IT projects on time on budget and on value.

We Have Met the Enemy – He is Us

This was the title of my presentation at the #ITx2014 conference yesterday.

I have embedded the slideshow. In the next few days I will try and put up a version with an audio commentary reflecting what I said on the day.

 

Input Sought

I am putting together a couple of papers for possible presentation/publication sometime in the future.

The working titles and content outlines are below.

Paper 1

We have met the enemy – it is us
Outline of proposed paper
Why do so many projects fail? Why despite the conferences, papers and books do we still see such a high proportion of failed ICT projects? Why are so many so quick to allocate blame to the project managers?
This paper looks at this issue from the perspective of a practitioner with several decades of experience in projects, project assessment and managing professional services. The core theme of the paper is that the root cause of much project failure is human nature; coupled with a signal failure even today by many who should know better to understand that technology is merely an enabler it is not a substitute for understanding and resolving the actual problem.
The paper will consider why failures continue to occur, the place of project methodologies and why we see projects subject to ‘strong’ governance still failing. The paper will draw upon the experience of the author and make reference to situations actually encountered across the author’s lengthy career. Consideration will be given to the viewpoints of executive management, operational managers, project personnel, vendors and consultants.
The author intends to take a provocative stance in his comments, especially as regards the all too common tendency to blame project managers for the problems, when in his opinion that is far too simplistic. Furthermore, he proposes to question the current fad for governance which all too often confuses protocol and process with the intent of governance which is ‘informed decision making’.
In summation the author intends to offer some suggestions as to commonsense steps which might be taken to reduce the incidence of failure.
Paper 2
Extinguishing scrub fires before they spark conflagrations
Some Thoughts on Portfolio Management
Outline of proposed paper
More and more organisations are finding themselves in the position of having portfolios of projects running. Some projects run well, others do not. Despite the money which has been spent on management systems we still find that the rate of success is poor and that in many cases executives and managers are surprised when programmes and projects ‘go off the rails’ with the velocity in many cases of a runaway locomotive.

The author intends to draw on his extensive experience with two major global organisations to highlight approaches to portfolio management which he has found successful both in identifying at an early stage the possibility of problems and where necessary mitigating the issues arising. The paper looks at these matters from a practical practitioners perspective not a theoretical one. It is hoped that the lessons learned, especially from mistakes made, will enable others to avoid some pitfalls in the future.

Areas considered include the question of risk/ benefit, cessation versus continuation and whether the perspective is different if the programme/ project is in house or external.

Regard will be had as to possible organisational approaches that may or may not offer benefits, including the role of Programme Offices.
In summation the intent is to look at Portfolio Management through the lens of a pragmatic practitioner and to offer some observations on possible approaches to obviate issues, ideally before they become problems.
The thrust of these two papers will be to take a practical experience based look at some of the issues in these two areas. It would greatly assist if anybody with views on the areas outlined would be kind enough to share their thoughts with me. I am happy to acknowledge such input in the paper. Furthermore if anybody would like to act as a reviewer please let me know, as another brain is always useful.

The IRD Transformation

Went to the IITP Breakfast at The Wellesley this morning to hear Revenue Minister Todd McClay talk about the reasons behind the IRD Transformation project.

2014-06-26 08.13.44

An informative presentation on some of the thinking behind the major programme IRD are proposing.

It will be interesting to see if the words translate into execution once the programme moves into later phases.

 

10 Things Great Project Managers Do

I came across this slideshow on 10 Things Great Project Managers Do today whilst browsing some online newsletters I subscribe to.

Whilst they may seem a little motherhood and apple pie to some,  it is when the basics are executed right that we get success. All too often we neglect the basics at our peril. There is a reason that the basics are called the basics.; it is that they are the building blocks for success.

One that resonated with me particularly was Number 10

GreatManagersDo_10

The reason being that all too often in the past I have had occasion to ignore this basic. When I have it has often not turned out like I would have wished. Being a hard charger as the Americans say, is all very well, but you need to pace the charging. That knowledge often comes only with experience and after learning why the basic is a basic and not a namby pamby HR idea.

Of course there are other things, but these 10 encapsulate much of what is required for success. They do not guarantee success but they will go a long way to reducing project failure due to project management. Note though that other factors are often as influential, if not more so in project failure than project management.

Social Media and the NZ 2014 Election

This is not a political blog, but it would be foolish to ignore the fact that 2014 is a general election year. In addition it takes place at a time when the use of social media to assist parties in their campaigns is accelerating.

I have found it interesting to look at how the parties are and are not using social media in 2014. As yet I cannot discern from a lay perspective whether any one party possesses the knack, nor is it clear that some of them and/or their adherents have any idea how to get it.

However, I have found this blog site, Social Media & the 2014 General Election run by Matthew Beveridge to be helpful when considering the area.

The role of procurement in software project failure

The Institute of Information Technology Professionals is conducting a very brief survey of IT procurement in project failure. Please, if you have relevant experience take part in the survey. Details are below:

Gmail - The role of procurement in software project failure (2)The survey can be accessed here http://www.iitp.org.nz/spsurvey

It is very concise so please assist us in this research effort.

As many of you know I have a long held interest in the causes of project failure, so I look forward to seeing the results of this survey.

IITP Wellington Branch Committee

I am standing for election to the Wellington Branch Committee of IITP. The voting process is now open. I note with interest that if I had not stood the probability is that the 2013 Committee Group Ticket would have been returned unopposed. So in that sense you could describe me as an independent voice.

My intent in standing is to assist IITP further it’s aims. In addition I believe passionately that we need to improve governance in business. Therefore should I be fortunate enough to gain sufficient votes to be elected I should wish to promote the efforts of IITP both in Wellington and nationally in this critical area.

Please help me if you are an IITP Wellington elector by supporting my candidacy.

Thank you

Improving Assurance over ICT in Government

I attended an interesting presentation at lunchtime today. The presenter was  Alison Schulze the recently appointed Director of ICT Assurance at Department of Internal Affairs. Ms Schulze reports via Tim Occleshaw, Deputy Chief Executive –  Service and System Transformation, Government Chief Technology Officer  to Colin MacDonald, DIA CEO and Government Chief Information Officer. The remit of Ms Schulze is across government and not confined to just DIA.  

Initial indications from the session today are that government is, at long last, making serious efforts to get to grips with the issue of assurance based on a business perspective, not just an IT one. However, it is as stated today very much work in progress.

I hope to be able to write in more detail on this in the near future.

Attending IITP Conference 2013

Later this week I will be attending the 2013 IITP Conference in Tauranga. This conference is focused on Innovation as one of it’s key themes.

Sessions I am looking forward to include the keynotes and a governance presentation. I am keen to understand how others see governance supporting and enhancing innovation.
More on the conference soon.