Project Management

IT projects, particularly BIG IT projects are prone to delay, cost over run and, more especially to not quite being what the customer expected! This has long been recognized and in the 1960’s some wag came out with the Tree Swing diagram to illustrate the issue. All credit to whom ever it was so I show it below! It has gone through various iterations over the years! This really illustrates the need for a thorough Project Startup process.

IT projects are particularly vulnerable as there is little outward sight of something being built, unlike a new bridge or other construction project. This also brings an inherent risk of uncontrolled change.

Changing the design of a bridge from 3 span to a 2 span after ground is broken and the steel is on site would be clear NO. Yet some businesses try to do that with an IT system and do not understand why the cost has gone up and the timeline moved out, plus the added risk of non delivery.

A clear startup process includes a business case looking at all the options (at least 3, including “do nothing”), an analysis of benefits vs. risk and also a clear methodology to move forward with whatever decision is made.

Even a project of around $100,000 value can have a number of stakeholders, 3 or 4 staff members and 2 or 3 vendors. Yet from recent experience in the roll out of Electronic Health Records independent health clinics were spending $100>$500 capital on implementing systems and having no business case for their decision. Like wise small hospitals spending from $1M to $10M.
Recent surveys in the industry show that 58% of primary care practices admit they are not happy and need to change their system, and nearly 40% of small hospitals with the same issue. This happens in many businesses who are specialist in what they do but do not hire a Project Manager for his specialist skills. I am sure I could have a crack at taking out an appendix but it mat not work out well!

In 1992 the UK NHS made PRINCE2 method compulsory for all projects over about $15,000 and since added the Green Book Guidance for Business Case development and this now applies to ALL Public Sector projects. The 2012 London Olympics were managed using Prince2. Here is the “Lessons Learned” published report.

In 2009 the US Federal Government adopted PRINCE2 for the CPIC Program (Capital Planning and Investment Control). Here is more information on CPIC & PRINCE2.

Healthcare is just an example I give because the systems are so complex. As the systems are very complex often it is the vendor who gets the blame. The reason is that a Project is outside “Business as Usual” so is outside the normal operational parameters of the business, and probably the skills and experience of the employees.
When considering a project please engage an experienced Project Manager if only to guide you through this initial process!

The Moral of this page is PLEASE undertake a thorough startup phase - you may find the business case says “do nothing”!