In-Depth

Proper project management can increase the odds

"If you don’t understand the dynamics of how projects succeed, you can never increase success rates," says Jim Johnson, chairman of the Standish Group, a research advisory firm in West Yarmouth, Mass.

Although Standish Group has seen overall improvements in project success rates, data from the second quarter of 2004 showed only 29% of projects succeeded, while 18% failed and 53% were challenged.

Johnson says a PPM solution may help, but it can also create more bureaucracy. "Project management and project tools don’t necessarily increase success rates. In fact, they could inhibit success rates unless they use them right."

Project management tools should be used as an aid to improve current practices, not as a way to document them, Johnson says. Birlasoft, an outsourcing supplier in India, provides a good example of how to use a tool for competitive advantage. Before choosing a PPM solution, Birlasoft conducted a Capability Maturity Model assessment of its software development processes, and wanted them "to be digitized using some tool," says Sonu Rathore, head of Quality and ITG COE. Birlasoft chose the Kintana PPM solution (since acquired by Mercury) and implemented all of its CMM processes in the tool. Since then, Birlasoft has been able to create centers of excellence around J2EE and .NET development, as well as PeopleSoft, using the PPM solution, and she says defect rates have dropped while productivity has improved.

Other ways IT organizations are improving success rates include keeping projects smaller, using more agile development processes such as Scrum and Extreme programming, and using components and open sources.

Johnson also sees new government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley as an opportunity to improve success rates.

"Sarbanes-Oxley is a big issue," Johnson says. "IT governance is a big part of that, [so] IT will have to govern themselves and help companies govern themselves. This is an opportunity people have if they approach it as a way to improve processes vs. documenting processes. They will have better success rates."

About the Author

Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.

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