There are a number of notorious projects in our industry that everyone has been asked to become involved in, everyone knows are failing, and seem to continue to drift off-course. Can these projects be saved? I say that it’s possible but unlikely. Here are three reasons why:
- Inability to change as a culture. Some of these projects did get initial advice to apprise them of the pitfalls that they would face, getting enough information to know to either cut specific items from their projects or to appropriately handle those items. Based on my project experience, I doubt that they took the advice they got and are now mired in problems with some of those items. So, if a company knows ahead of time the issues it will face, can it plan for them? Not necessarily. Some companies don’t have the culture to understand the risks and plan for them and/or they don’t have the ability to change in order to make their project succeed. In this, we do all realize that smaller projects have an advantage because they can more easily adjust in order to turn, although that is not always true, either. Just because a project is small doesn’t mean it has a more flexible culture, necessarily.
- The wrong resources. Some projects commit to using the wrong resources and never recover from that. It’s not necessarily that any particular resource is bad but that it’s the wrong combination of people to work together and get the job done. In some sense, projects are set with certain resource constraints that they must live with. For example, if a customer has certain employees that must be involved in the project, then those people are the main constraint. All other resources must be built around them to round-out the project capabilities. This is where consultants come in. A customer must find the right consultants to round-out the project. Not every project has the capability to do this. In some cases, the market is tight and customers don’t get a choice who they can select for their project, but most customers no longer have access to the people that could make their project a success even when the market has a lot of available and appropriate resources. Most customers are restricted to the people available in their preferred vendor programs -or- with their software vendors. This limits the pool of people available, significantly, especially when the market is tight. For example, just because all senior people are booked with a particular software vendor or the preferred vendors does NOT mean that there aren’t resources available in the market but seeing what is available in the market is no help when those resources are not available from which to select.
- Inability to see that the project isn’t doing well. When a customer hears the company running the project say that the project is fine, it isn’t easy to know that it isn’t. If the company selling the project insists everything is as it should be, the customer doesn’t necessarily have the information to challenge that. If the company selling the project is looking to make as much consulting money off the project as possible, which is not uncommon, then it is motivated to keep the customer feeling “okay” about it and paying as much money as possible. Volunteering any information to the customer that is contrary to that won’t change that. In fact, it will make them quite angry. You’re the messenger with bad news that they didn’t ask for so, of course information to the contrary isn’t welcome.