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Categories: Strategy


Throughout the evolution of the project management profession, project performance has been scrutinized to determine success and failure rates. This is especially true for IT projects. 

Since the mid-1980s, many organizations have shared their IT project results for one study in particular, The Standish Group's CHAOS report. The survey typically includes questions about project requirements, project budget, project schedule, project stakeholders expectations and use of new technology. This "state of IT projects" report has been used as a reference by the project management and IT communities as a lessons learned guide, even when IT projects have failed. This led me to wonder: In which context is an IT project failure analyzed?

Let me explain. If the success or failure rate of an IT project is analyzed in the IT context only, then the analysis may ignore the organization and its vision, mission and strategy. Analyses that are not supported by a holistic approach may propose an incomplete diagnosis that may lead to misinterpretation of project success or failure.

A holistic analysis integrates other factors, either internal or external, that affected schedule, budget, requirements, etc. For example, a project's scope may be impacted by a new government regulation or a sudden change in the organizational strategy. Factors such as these may trigger a domino effect on the schedule and budget, too. And that would call for changes in the scope, schedule and budget -- otherwise, the organization is at risk of not achieving its strategic goals. While changing those project attributes make the organization successful, it might result in the project itself being considered a failure.

But organizational success doesn't need to come at the expense of project success. That's why more organizations are using projects as enablers to reach organizational goals. One way to make that happen is by adopting the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®). OPM3 translates organizational strategy into a portfolio's components (i.e., programs, projects, operations, initiatives, etc.) and aligns them to overall strategy. This alignment can create the required synergy to produce the products and benefits to achieve strategic goals and meet or exceed the stakeholder's expectations.

OPM may be in the early stages of adoption, but so far I have seen it provide value to the organizations that use it. I know this from first-hand experience. While I was working for a global leader in logistics, OPM3 was embraced with excellent results:

  • Project management expanded its coverage and reached business functions
  • Cross-functional communication improved 
  • OPM3 facilitated the identification of dependencies between business processes and projects in the portfolio
  • Stakeholders became fully engaged when they saw projects as strategic enablers to achieve strategic goals
What would you promote as a way to holistically assess project success or failure within your organization?
Posted by Conrado Morlan on: March 25, 2014 11:05 AM | Permalink

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