Stuart Easton

Stuart is CEO of TransparentChoice and is a veteran of the software space. His back ground includes stints working on reporting and data analytics and he is passionate about improving business outcomes for his customers. Stuart lives in the UK and enjoys hiking, mountain biking and playing with his kids. He also enjoys playing guitar... but his family would rather he didn't.

Recent Posts

Another project failure? Time to align projects to strategy

Alright, let’s make this quick - I know this hurts. As a profession we still fail far too often. Project failure is a major source of waste and frustration in most organizations. Here are a few interesting nuggets of information:

  • Only 37% of organizations deliver projects on time more often than not. In other words, 63% of organizations deliver more than 50% of their projects late! (UK data, Source: Wellingtone)

  • The number of projects that are lost hook, line and sinker (“Failed project, budget lost”) has stubbornly remained above 30% for the last 6 years. (Source: PMI Pulse of the Profession 2017)

  • 85% of organizations have a PMO (Source: State of the PMO, 2016)... but given that most organizations can’t even deliver half their projects on time

  • The most common factor (37%) behind project failure is a lack of clear goals (or even a lack of alignment to corporate goals - source: PMI Pulse of the Profession 2017)

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8 Benefits of Strategic Alignment of Projects

Okay, everybody talks about the importance of the strategic alignment of your project portfolio. Your portfolio exists to support your business strategy but in this blog, I want to look at things the other way around. Let’s assume we’ve already aligned our portfolio to strategy - what benefits would we see?

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Project Prioritization Matrix: Avoid These 4 Common Mistakes

In this blog I often talk about the project prioritization process and the best method of implementing it. In this article I would like to share some ideas on how to use the prioritization matrix to prioritize projects in a way that gives you a chance to succeed.

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How to Prioritize Projects: 4 Steps

Okay, so you may have read our ultimate guide to project prioritization and now you want to know how to prioritize projects. You’re in the right place.

We’ll break it down into 4 easy steps.

1. Value definition

Let’s get one thing clear before we start. Your projects are not “your” projects, they are there to deliver strategic value to the business. It is, therefore, vital to make sure that “the business” - for the purpose of this blog, that means a diverse group of senior stakeholders - what “value” means before you start.

This process begins with a brainstorming session with your executives. The goal of this brainstorming is to end up with a list of 4 to 7 top-level strategic goals - the business goals that are most important to your stakeholders. We will then use those goals as criteria to evaluate and score your projects - this is what allows you to deliver strategic alignment.

Your top-level criteria can be further divided into sub-goals. You might end up with something like this:

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What's the point of a PMO?

Point of a PMO is to deliver strategic valueSo, you've probably heard the one about the broken pencil? 

....nah, there's no point.

Maybe that's really a joke about PMOs. You've seen the stats, right? 

  • 50% of PMOs close within 3 years (APM)
  • Since 2008, PMO implementation failure rate is over 50% (Gartner Project Manager 2014)
  • 68% of stakeholders perceive the PMO as bureaucratic (2013 Gartner PPM Summit)

I've written before on ways to turn this around, but there's one underlying challenge: many PMO leaders themselves don't understand the point of the PMO. If the PMO leader doesn't know what the PMO is for, how can the senior executives value it?

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PMOs are revolting!

There is a revolution under way: the 4th Industrial Revolution.

And the PMO is, in some ways, the most crucial player in making this revolution happen. The PMO is like Napoleon. Or the guillotine. The revolution just wouldn't have played out without them.

Change is nothing new and it's a cliché to say that change is accelerating, but it really is. It's not just accelerating, but it's accelerating on a whole lot of different fronts all at once. Technologies like artificial intelligence, internet of things, robotics, big data and - well, just throw in your favourite collection of buzz-words - these technologies are driving change at a faster pace than ever before. And this accelerated change has a name; the 4th Industrial Revolution.

And the PMO is a key player in this revolution, but are you ready?

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PMOs are like insects...

exec sponsorship insectsPMOs are like insects...

"Okay, Stuart, you've lost it this time...!"

But wait - hear me out. 

Between certain species of ants and aphids, something magical happens. They cooperate to help each other thrive - they have a symbiotic relationship. The aphids "mine" plants for sugar which they "feed" to the ants. The ants, for their part, protect the aphids from predators, even destroying Ladybird (Ladybug if you don't speak the Queen's English) eggs to prevent those predators from being born. 

PMOs and Executives are just like that though I'm not saying which is which. 

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PMOs Should Stop Prioritizing Demand!

PMO WisdomWell, I just got off the phone with a consultant friend of mine, Roberto Camanho. He is grey-haired and wise. He is the Gandalf to my Mr Baggins.

And he took the rather controversial position that PMOs should NOT be in the business of prioritizing demand.

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Time for PMOs to Upgrade? Hell yes!

PMO Superhero

Have you ever seen any superhero sequel movie without an upgrade? Of course not! Superheroes come back with new gear to combat threats and to SAVE THE WORLD.

This is what PMOs need - an upgrade to fight PROJECT FAILURE. Like any good super villain, project failure is hard to eradicate (in fact, may never be totally vanquished). And like any good super villain, project failure can be fatal, not just to projects, but also to careers.

PMI’s recent survey is absolutely clear – too much money is being wasted on poor project performance. No, don’t roll your eyes. We’ve all heard this message so often it’s kind of become background noise, but think about it. If your company decided to build a new $200m headquarters building then changed its mind and had to lay off 10% of the workforce because of the wasted money, you’d be furious, right?

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Air Guitar and Your Maturity Level

air guitar.pngNext time you're in front of a large group of people, try this game. Ask people to put up their hands if the are "above average drivers". I pretty much guarantee that 70-90% of hands will go up. Now that's just not credible (unless you're at an advanced drivers convention!).

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Why executives lose their jobs?

your next decision.png

I have no alternative; you’re fired!

Projects that fail, especially significant projects that promise the moon but that end up costing the earth, can end your career in a heartbeat. Of course projects fail for all kinds of reasons, but one very common cause is picking the wrong project/vendor/partners/solution in the first place.

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PMOs Save the World!

Pm4 .png

On July 13th, 1985, a group of musicians including David Bowie, Queen and The Who came together and changed the world. It was called Live Aid and was attended by around 170,000 people in the UK and the USA and was watched by one-and-a-half billion people around the world. Live Aid raised something like £150m (that's around $200m at today's exchange rate) for famine relief in Africa.

Now, come on! We in the PM community are not going to let a bunch of over-paid poppinjays with bad haircuts have all the glory, are we?

PMs, PMOs, consultants, vendors... we can all make a difference, we can change the world, and here's how.

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PMO Champions vs. Underperformers

pmos are the champions.png

In their massive rock anthem, We Are The Champions, the band Queen boldly declare, “No time for losers, ‘cos we are the champions…”

Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why 72% of PMOs are being called into question by their executives; perhaps they too have “No time for losers 

And today, we’re going to figure out where you sit. Are you a Champion or an Underperformer? Or, most likely, somewhere in between?

 

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Benefits Realization is easier than you think

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 project 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 like The 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…

magnifying glass 2.png

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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