Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tough Choice for Project Management: Do you Know When to Pull the Plug on Project?

If a project no longer provides its planned business benefit, for whatever reason, logically the project should be stopped and its resources need to be re-distributed. However, in reality, the pressure to keep project going because "success is just around the corner" can be extremely strong.  It is also important to note that if a project has exceeded its budget and the business can't see many benefits, then it can happen. Or the projects have had to be cancelled because the economic climate or other times new management comes in and they are under pressure to cut the costs.  Sometimes a project may be a total failure but it is completed because the expenses are required to be claimed in tax.  The reasons why such circumstances happen may vary, the point is how to learn the skills to know when to pull the plug on the projects smoothly? 
  • Lack of  Proper Project Preparation: Statistically, only 20% of the projects analyzed the business benefits of the projects, it can be summed up with proper project preparation. An IT project needs to be viewed as any other project in the enterprise, with the due diligence necessary to ensure good results. If you can't, you should not be tackling a project of any scale. You will not be able to define measurable goals, monitor spend, gain any metrics and determine progress. 
  • There are two types of 'forced' completion. The first is when the project is no longer under the portfolio management and governance oversight and carries on independently of this process. This could be that the oversight process itself is very poor, which leads to the second cause being that of vested interest. This second cause tends to flourish in organizations where there are poor oversight mechanisms.  
  • The human effect and that many projects are not 'scoped' out properly, it is the job of good governance to ensure that these effects are minimized. This same good governance will stop even the best planned projects if the conditions change. A good project is started, business thinks it is fantastic, and IT commits on developing the project without locking the project scope. Business is asking to include all possible features and the result is a budget overrun which follows cancellation. So the IT Project Manager needs to monitor and control the scope and deliver the project with all features in many releases rather than just one. 
    Project governance should be proportional to the size and complexity of a project/program. As size and budget increases, so should the governance around it. Effective governance forums and Steering Groups should ensure that projects remain relevant, are changed to re-align or are axed. This involvement of senior stakeholders and executive oversight tends to negate the worst aspects of vested interest and decisions tend to be made more objectively 
  • PM Skill Limitation: That questions the triple constraint of scope, budget and time triangle as being too constrained and needs to include skills such as business acumen, relationship management and finance knowledge. The point is being that many projects fail by a strict adherence to the belief that a PM only manages the core constraints. It  is also caused by inappropriate scope, the wrong methodology being used (Waterfall vs. Agile), the ineffective PPM & mechanism, the wrong set of measure to monitor project progress. or more fundamentally, it's just the wrong project to start with-lack of clear business justification     
Generally speaking, it's Governance Issues: Carrying a project through to completion when it has lost its relevance is likewise a failure, and often demonstrates that a project has become 'independent' of the portfolio management process. It is an important skill is to know when to pull a project - but it is not just a 'one person' view, it needs to be part of a governance process that continually aligns the project outcomes back to a set of business driven KPIs. When the KPIs change, then the project needs to re-align, and if this means a change to scope, budget, time, quality, etc, then the process of assessment and cost-benefit analysis needs to kick in. 


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