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CIOs need to care more about project management

Colin Ellis | April 27, 2015
Only two CIOs I've ever worked for over the past 15 years have really cared about project management.

Only two CIOs I've ever worked for over the past 15 years have really cared about project management. Don't get me wrong, the rest really cared that projects got done, usually quickly and with little time for planning or real customer engagement.

But did they actually care for project management — it's people, culture, approaches or engagement with the customer? Not really.

A 2011 investigation by the Victorian Ombudsman looked at the 10 biggest IT-enabled projects the state was undertaking at the time and every one of them had failed.

They failed due to poor leadership and governance, poor project management and a lack of planning. In most instances, costs had doubled and in at least two cases, costs had tripled. The failures added an extra $1.4 billion in cost to the Victorian tax payer.

All of the reasons for failure listed in the report had been around and well documented for the previous 10 years. Most, if not all, of the initiatives included had program management offices (PMOs) whose role it is to oversee and assure delivery.

All had employed large, well known consultancies to lift the covers and find out what was really happening, yet still nothing changed.

A year later, McKinsey's reported that 17 per cent of IT projects budgeted at $15 million or higher go badly as to threaten the company's very existence. Its very existence!

If that's not something to make a CIO sit up and take more interest in how projects are delivered, I don't know what is. The report's four key recommendations were:

  • focus on managing strategy and stakeholders instead of exclusively concentrating on budgeting and scheduling
  • master technology and project content by securing critical internal and external talent
  • build effective teams by aligning their incentives with the overall goals of projects
  • excel at core project management practices, such as short delivery cycles and rigorous quality checks.

That was three years ago and it represented a very clear call to action to CIOs and CTOs to take an active role in how their projects are delivered.

It's time to change

I am regularly told by CIOs that they have embraced agile as a way of delivering projects more efficiently and yet they quickly come to realise that agile is just another method and has little to do with project management excellence.

I'm able to demonstrate that excellence is driven by the culture that you have created through people demonstrating exemplary behaviours, collaborating in the right way, having a great plan and making sure the customer gets what they need, all the time.

Intel, CIO, Kim Stevenson, said recently: "There are no IT projects, only business projects." The fact that CIOs are still saying that (they've been saying it since 2007), indicates that CIOs are still trying to convince the world that they are doing the right thing.


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