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Article

The Geometry of IT Projects Success

June 7, 2019

The Geometry of IT Projects Success

Quoting Bernard Mars's article in Forbes, the 7 real reasons IT Projects fail are:

  • Poorly defined (or no defined) outcome
  • Lack of leadership
  • Lack of accountability
  • Insufficient communication
  • No plan or timeline
  • Lack of user testing, or failure to address feedback
  • Solving the wrong problem

Note that none of the stated reasons are technological, they're all people and process related.

This article will focus on “Poorly defined (or no defined) outcome" and “Solving the wrong problem", but first some geometry…

Triangle

One of the most basic things we learn about project management, is the triple constraint, also called project management triangle. And according to this triangle we are aware of the vital importance that scope, cost and time have on project success.

The 2 failure reasons we're focused are strongly related with scope, well, with poorly defined scope.

The pressure to define scope in the beginning of a project, is well justified with the need to size the project to know how much it will cost and long will it take to be developed. But let's be honest, even if the stakeholders are well engaged, as the project moves forward the understanding of the value that can be delivered changes. With a closed scope approach, changing the scope would be place the project in a track to failure.

So project often moves forward with a scope that doesn't address the real problem, or addresses it in a poorly manner. Maybe a geometrical change can help…

Square

Imagine a square whose width is capacity and height is time. That is then filled up with scope during project execution.

With this approach, the sizing of the project is a high level decision of the capacity a team requires to build an idea of a project over a period of time. But the details of the project (scope) are defined over time, as the project is developed.

So going back to the 2 failure reasons:

  • this way we can still have a poorly defined outcome, but we own that decision, because we know that during the execution of the project we'll be able to define for each interaction the value we expect to get from it, and as project moves forward we'll be more prepared to understand what need.
  • if and when we realize we're solving the wrong problem, it's easier and cheaper to change direction and focus the team on solving the real problem instead of a pre-contracted scope that turned out to be the wrong one.

Bottom line, are we ready to sell and buy services delivered in squares and leave triangles behind?

Written by Flávio Costa Romão

COO & Co-founder @ Theros Digital

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