Category Archives: People

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.

 

The ITx Conference – Auckland – 8-10 October 2014

Itx

This conference will soon be upon us. I have been fortunate enough to have a paper selected for presentation.

The programme is here and my offering is here.

You can register here

What is ITx?

Established in 2014, ITx is three conferences in one; combining the successful IITP and CITRENZ national conferences with the re-launch of the Computer Science Association’s conference; establishing the broadest and largest non-vendor general IT conference in New Zealand.

ITx focuses on innovation, technology and education and brings IT professionals, decision-makers, leaders and academics together under one roof. This is a conference like no other: where industry, academia and government come together to network, learn and engage.

ITx will run every second year in either Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

About IITP, CITRENZ and CSANZ

The Institute of IT Professionals NZ (IITP) is the professional body of the IT sector and is the largest IT representative body in New Zealand. IITP has run conferences for almost 50 years, although there was a large hiatus prior to the 2010 50th Anniversary Conference. IITP2013 was held in Tauranga and attracted hundreds of IT professionals and thought leaders.

Computer and Information Technology Research and Education New Zealand (CITRENZ) is the representative body for the IT departments of New Zealand’s Institute of Technology / Polytechnic sector. CITRENZ has been running successful annual conferences for 27 years.

Computer Science Association of New Zealand (CSANZ) is the forum for the University Computer Science community. CSANZ has been active for many years and 2014 will see the return of the popular CSANZ conference as part of ITx.

Aspects of Project Failure – The Seven Deadly Sins

Yesterday I posted an item on 10 Things Great Project Managers Do. This post popped up on Facebook, as do my other posts, and a friend and former colleague Andy Cawston responded. We entered into a brief discussion as to how various human factors impact on projects.

Andy had made the observation that the list did not include Risk Management, to which I responded:-

Sure and in one sense all of the 10 are about Risk Management, with a focus on the people aspects, often seen as the ‘soft options’, yet in fact people are in many ways the hard options and in my view looking back over several decades ‘people’ are in fact one of the root causes of project failure. Indeed depending on the criteria being used to assess failure one might argue that ‘people’ are the primary cause of project failure and that successful project management is more about people management than anything else. At which point all sorts of people emerge from the woodwork to decry the proposition.

Andy then went on to expound an interesting concept:-

I’d be inclined to support that proposition. To my experience the primary causes of project failure tend to be people-related. For example, scope creep = people wanting too much, too soon, for too little. <— that’s Greed (Avarice), in a nutshell.

You could take each of the 7 Deadly Sins and similarly map them against the causes of project failure. All of them.

Wrath, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony could each similarly be mapped against primary causes of project failure, and as such could be managed as project risks.

Bloody brilliant!

I can recall one project in particular where Sloth was the primary cause of a project nearly failing. I was assigned to drag the project back, and we ended up delivering properly. It was hard work!

I can recall another project where Pride and Envy played a huge part in the bid process. Our team had been selected to develop a Partnership with the client. Our PM resented the presence of an external consultant driving the project, fought him tooth-and-nail, and we nearly ended up getting booted out of the account. Only a Mutiny by our team against the PM saved us…

Indeed the more I think about it, the situations we find ourselves in so often on projects do mirror the 7 Deadly Sins. Further, I think that more and more I am coming to the view that people are the primary cause of project failure, which goes a long way to explaining why we continue to see project failures year after year with causes of failure the same or similar to those encountered decades ago.

What do others think?

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.

Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce

This post is an unashamed plug for the Chamber, but I feel that they deserve it. In recent months I have been going along to their excellent series of early morning breakfasts held on the second Friday of most months at 6:30 am at The Petone Working Men’s Club.

In particular I especially enjoyed the April address by Dr John McDermott from the Reserve Bank, which was extremely insightful. Then last Friday was the address by Mayor Ray Wallace of Hutt City who spoke about what was happening in the area and how Hutt City might evolve.

HVCC_RAYW_13062014Along with his speech, Mayor Wallace left attendees with a number of copies of a booklet Fresh Thinkers – Profiling Technology Businesses in the Hutt, the link takes you to the relevant web site for viewing and download.

I am ashamed to admit that until relatively recently I had not appreciated sufficiently the scale of  business in the Hutt, nor just how many success stories we have here. It is fascinating and taking part in the varied Chamber activities has enabled me to appreciate this much more. Hutt Valley is a vital part of the NZ economy and has a major role to play in our future economic success.

 

 

And in the beginning there was the bus….

Before the app, before the smartphone, before the network, there was the bus. And the bus headed south from San Francisco toward a new world.

So begins an interesting post at Nicholas Carr’s Rough Type Blog Carr looks at the difference between the bus (as a stand in for society) as exemplified in Tom Wolfe’s classic The Electric Kool- Aid Acid Test (Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters and the 1960s) and the Google Bus of today.

Read the post, it raises some interesting points.

Finally this quote from Wolfe’s classic, which Carr uses to set the scene for his discussion:-

“There are going to be times,” says Kesey, “when we can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.” And nobody had to have it spelled out for them. Everything was becoming allegorical, understood by the group mind, and especially this: “You’re either on the bus . . . or off the bus.” –Tom Wolfe

This resonates with me today, as it did when I first read it many years ago. We can use to be on the bus, or we can let it go without us.

 

 

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.