You are called to a meeting to introduce the new vice-president of performance Excellence. You unobtrusively scan your Blackberry and your mind reflects on the day's tasks waiting in the project office. In the background you hear the mantra, "our projects have to deliver business value" repeated several times. You don't disagree. You've thought so for years. But the company doesn't make it easy... no company does.
It's tough leading IT projects. When we surveyed the state of project management in the UK back in 2003-2004 for Computer Weekly, project managers told us that all aspects of their jobs were getting harder. High complexity, much uncertainty, rapid pace of change, and plenty of politics were some of the reasons. The requirement to deliver business value was becoming more intense.
Since then, at least in the rhetoric, the focus on value has become the norm.
So how are we doing? Our own surveys, both in the UK with Computer Weekly, and in the US through the Project Management Institute, have indicated that many project managers have been doing better and better at delivering on time and on budget. Even the famously pessimistic Standish Group has seen evidence of improvement. But what about delivering business value?
Free copy of project management research for Computer Weekly readers
We are inviting you to participate in our project management research by completing a short 10-15 minute survey. In return, we will send you a personal copy of the preliminary report. To fill out the survey please click here.
Currently, there is very little solid evidence. This is partly because it is a tricky target to measure.
Ask business leaders and either they say, "I don't know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it," or they will take a clear-cut view that uses their corporation's capital investment regime of fixed term pay-back periods with a defined ROI.
The trouble is that when you review almost any important project you realise that it was subject to many changes that largely invalidated the project charter and that the business case was never updated.
That said, a project that delivers ROI, even if it does not do so precisely according to the plan, still delivers value. This is an outcome that can be measured and should be celebrated. But how is it achieved?
We believe that IT-enabled business projects are knowledge-intensive and that creation and deployment of knowledge is important and usually under-managed. Project management guidelines rarely describe how to develop shared understanding between technologists and business people about the process, skill and structural changes needed to deliver value. Keeping this shared understanding current throughout the many external and internal changes to a project is not well understood.
Then there are the knowledge practices by which technologists, consultants and the business side integrate their different areas of expertise to develop solutions which deliver business value. This is a learning process and needs to be managed accordingly.
The hunch that we are pursuing in our research is that there are important links between the management and exploitation of knowledge in projects and the achievement of business value.
To make your contribution to this research you can share your experience in a short 10 - 15 minute survey. In return, we will send you a personal copy of our preliminary report.