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57% increase in project success: here's the trick

Written by Stuart Easton

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This blog is all about a very simple statistic from the PMI. It's a startling statistic, yet when you think about it it makes perfect sense.

Projects are 57% more likely to achieve their business goals if they are aligned with corporate strategy.

Fifty…... Seven…… wow!

 

According to the same PMI report strategically aligned projects are 50% more likely to be completed on time and 45% more likely to be completed within budget.

So no matter how you define success, strategic alignment clearly has a huge impact. This blog is going to look at why this is and what you can do to improve your own success rates.

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My Project Just Failed... or Did It?

Written by Peter Houlihan

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Search for ‘project failure statistics’ and you’ll find lots of reports talking about failure rates of anywhere between 40% and 75%. It’s also easy to find training providers and consultants who tout the one guaranteed way to project success. 

But just what do we mean by project failure or success? Before we can really start to talk about improving success rates, surely we need to understand this. I host a community of PMO professionals in Melbourne – we call this community P3C – and we recently discussed just this point.

This blog looks at what we learned.

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Benefits Realization is easier than you think

Written by Stuart Easton

Project benefit realizationLast week was the Project Challenge event in London and the were some really good talks. Among them was a talk by David Walton of Bestoutcome on benefits realization. This is an area I am often asked about when supporting clients in their portfolio prioritization and selection process so I thought I'd share...

Tracking through to benefits doesn't have to be hard, but it does take focus and the discipline to never give up, a bit likeThe Terminator - the good one in T2, of course; we don't want any nasty robo-PMOs running around gunning down project sponsors... even if you do sometimes feel like it!

Very few organizations track projects all the way through to benefit and David gave a simple framework to help you get there, but he missed one of the most important steps out; prioritization.

So, let me share with you my interpretation of the talk, but I'll add what I think is missing.

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Oh no! Here comes the CFO…

Written by Stuart Easton

 

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We’ve all had the feeling. You step into a lift (elevator for those of you who don’t speak the Queen’s English) and there’s the CFO. Or the CEO. There’s nowhere to hide. She turns to you and says something along the lines;

“I’m heading to a budget review and the project portfolio is under pressure. How do we KNOW we’re investing in the right things?”

Well, for most PMOs there is no good answer.

An honest answer would typically be; “Well, we had a meeting with our stakeholders and picked a bunch of projects that don’t really seem all that-well aligned with any strategic direction. Project selection was really based on politics and salesmanship and I reckon there are a few lemons and pet projects in there!”

Not an ideal answer.

Well, now there is a way you can quantify and justify the portfolio selection and it’s validated through academic research.

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There can be only one

Written by Stuart Easton

sketch1505317221824.pngWhen you go to the doctor, you expect that she will use evidence and best practice when treating you. A doctor has a certain duty of care towards her patients.

It would be terrifying if doctors around the world just started making stuff up. I mean you’d run a mile from a doctor who said, “Got a flu? I reckon a few purple pills should do the job. I mean, they worked fine for Mrs Jones’ sciatica the other week!”

But that’s exactly what organizations (and PPM vendors) around the world do when running project prioritization. They make it up. They just put their thinking caps on and slap together a spreadsheet (or, even more scary, vendors slap together a module for their PPM tool).

Yet executives and managers have a duty of care every bit as binding as that of a doctor. They have a duty to use the organization’s resources efficiently in support of key organizational goals, but “making it up” has been standard practice for years.

Luckily, we now have real evidence-based research to tell us how things SHOULD be done.

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PMOs have super-powers!

Written by Stuart Easton

PMO Super Heros.pngEvery PMO has the potential to be a superhero. Seriously.

Anyone who can deliver a sustained competitive advantage is a superhero (in company terms, anyway). It may be the “golden touch” on product (Steve Jobs) or the ability to spot a value-investment opportunity (Warren Buffet).

The superpower that every PMO has is the power to deliver a far more efficient and effective use of capital.

Hmmm – doesn’t sound as cool as X-ray vision or the power to create force-fields… but you know those aren’t real, right?

Apart from my Mum, who definitely had X-ray vision while I was growing up.

A more efficient and effective use of capital, however, is about as important for a company (or government agency, NGO, etc.) as it gets.

So, put your underpants on the outside and prepare to change the world!

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Project turn-around

Written by Stuart Easton

Turn around failing projects.pngWhen your car breaks, most of us call the mechanic.

Well, I recently spoke with Amanda Oakenfull of Deloitte in Australia. She’s known in Australian project management circles as The Mechanic and with good reason. She has an enviable track record in turning around projects, programs and portfolios. Amanda has a reputation for being able to fix almost anything and I wanted to know what her secret is.

We’ve released a podcast with an edited version of that discussion; it’s around 17 minutes long and is filled with real nuggets of wisdom, some of which may surprise you.

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PMO’s Most Important Meeting of the Year (Hint: it affects your appraisal meeting)

Written by Stuart Easton

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There’s one meeting (actually, it’s often a series of meetings) that is absolutely the most important meeting of the year for the PMO: the project prioritization meeting.

Why do I think this is the most important meeting?

    • This meeting defines the success or failure of your projects for the next year.
    • This meeting sets out how exactly how your organization will meet its strategic goals
    • This meeting has a massive impact on your career

“Whoa there! Did you just say something about my career?”

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PMOs: Number 1 Complaint

Written by Stuart Easton

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The Biggest Problem for PMOs

As part of my work, I speak with many PMO leaders and the most common complaint I hear is, “We have too many projects!”

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Projects failing? Why? Why? WHY?!

Written by Stuart Easton

why projects fail.pngMost people assume that if you want to reduce project failure rates the place to look is in project implementation. Of course improving implementation, upskilling project managers and putting in place project methodologies all help.

Many people are surprised, however, to hear so many experts saying that weak Project prioritisation is the root cause of much project failure. In fact, Amanda Oakenfull of Deloitte reckons the prioritization and planning process is the root cause of all project failure.

Let's dig into that a little to see why.

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The True Face of Your Portfolio

Written by Stuart Easton

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Let’s have a little fun, shall we?

Tell me, what did you see when you looked at the photo of a potato?

If you saw a face (look again if you missed it), then you just experienced facial pareidolia. Don’t worry; it’s normal to see faces in inanimate objects, though some people experience it more easily than others.

But what’s a funny potato got to do with project portfolios?

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Time to focus on the Project ‘Prioritization’ Challenge?

Written by Steve Beaumont

clock's ticking.jpgI was asked to present at the recent Project Challenge event at Olympia in London, and the organizer wanted me to talk about something a little different from the topics of project management; the PMO; and methodologies that a lot of presentations were focused on. 

I’ve been working in the project & portfolio management (PPM) space for almost 17 years now, and I have seen a lot of businesses who are trying to improve their maturity over these years. I've met a number of people who think PPM is about software, but it is very much more than that...

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Under Arrest: Project Prioritization

Written by Stuart Easton

Project Line up

Many executives are comfortable with their current project prioritization process, one based on a “beauty parade” or a “police line-up” of projects.

Well, I recently came across some research that shows that even the traditional police line-ups can be improved. And guess what; they do it using the same approach that leading PMOs use to prioritize projects. That approach is called the analytic hierarchy process (AHP).

 So, if your prioritization process still involves a “line up” - presenting a list of projects (or pitches) to executives and letting them choose – it’s time to move on.

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PMOs don't actually do anything!

Written by Stuart Easton

sketch1493041672126.pngLet’s be honest. PMOs don’t really do very much, do they?

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You should never, ever run out of project resources

Written by Stuart Easton

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John McGrath, speaking  at the Pharma PPM Toolbox in London, said that there is simply no excuse for not having enough resources on a project.

Now I know many of you will be disturbed by this statement, but I think he's more-or-less correct.

It's like when a bridge collapses. Bridges don't just collapse, you see (not that I'm a bridge expert, but work with me here.) There is always a reason for the collapse; you designed it wrong, you used the wrong material, you allowed too many trucks on at once, etc.

It’s the same way with projects. There's always a reason when you run out of resources and it's almost always avoidable. Let's look at some of those reasons and work out what can be done about them.

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