According to a 2008 Gartner report, 15% of all IT projects failed that year because of high cost variance, while 18% were unsuccessful because they were substantially late.* This means that in 2008, 1 in 3 technology projects failed. Why such a dismal success rate? Such projects primarily involve the management of human resources in order to accomplish the target schedule, cost, and quality, so it is safe to assume that poor resource management played a large role. Unfortunately, without effective resource management processes, such organizations are left asking questions like:
"Who is working on what?"
• "How do I get this project back on schedule?"
• "How much more work will it take to finish?"
• The Problem with IT Projects Today
IT project teams are made up of knowledge workers who are categorized by skill types or job functions. For example, a project team might require business analysts, developers, team leads, project managers, architects, or database analysts. Finding the right person to assign to a project or task can be the most challenging problem confronting the organization. Typically, quality staff is scarce and therefore heavily sought by competing projects. Without resource management processes, the organization struggles with allocation of its staff across projects.
In addition, project managers are responsible for keeping scope, budget, and schedules on track. How can project managers achieve this when they don’t know how many hours it takes to accomplish a task, or how many hours remain in the project? Without an effective system in place, project managers must constantly intrude on team members to get estimates. Likewise, the management team is always asking for status reports and accurate information on projects so that they can make critical decisions. Of course, the project manager is always the last to know when one of his or her critical resources has been magically "re-assigned" to another high profile project! In the words of a famous song, many project managers are "stitched up, out of their mind, feeling strung out, lagging behind, trapped in, can’t do a thing because they’relocked down…."**
From an executive perspective, it is impossible to make effective decisions when one does not know what people are working on or how the projects are doing. Additionally, if strategic projects do not have priority for critical, scarce resources, it will cause stress for the organization as a whole. Many organizations feel that it is enough to track project progress on a percentage complete basis. Unfortunately, this is not consistent with established methodologies, which nearly always suggest that the only accurate measure of progress is tracking work effort (i.e., time)
Integrating Plans with Actual
Projects are executed in order to bring in a positive return on investment (ROI). The ROI might be lowering risk, enhancing the organization's strategy, streamlining processes, complying with regulations, or otherwise improving the state of the organization in some way. This potential return must be quantified in financial terms, even if it is only a very rough estimate of the benefit provided. It motivates people to understand why they are working so hard, and a big number is a good motivation.
The other half of ROI is the investment or cost. Project managers and executives cannot know if a project was successful or not unless they understand its cost. In today's globalized knowledge worker world, project costs are mainly derived from the cost of labor. Consequently, tracking time to projects and tasks is an inescapable requirement for measuring project ROI.
If 10% of a project's allocated budget has been spent and only 5% of the work has been completed, there is a problem. Project managers who track employee actuals and find this out early in the project have a fighting chance of recovery. Those who don't will find out much later on that their projects are drastically over budget. This is just one example of how real-time data enables project managers to fix problems before they start.
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