The fact that many projects are delivered late and over budget is widely known, but rarely acknowledged. The frequency with which they fail is astonishing. Whether the project is to implement a new technology strategy, or a capital project, they require significant investments that last months or years. For organizations that commission these projects, the underwhelming track record of delivery combined with the investments creates significant risk.
To reduce this risk, many organizations have invested in their project management capabilities. Yet, despite spending millions of dollars in training and the development of greater project management maturity, the ability to consistently execute on time and on budget eludes us.
If you’re an executive that commissions these projects, you should be well aware of these risks. It should be no surprise if an established company fails in the coming years because of an out-of-control project, because the data suggests that one or more will.
I reached this depressing conclusion in 2014 after commissioning an independent study of project management practices and results from around the world. The research examined the survey responses from over 4,000 project managers and senior executives, comparing their budgets and estimated performance benefits with the actual costs and results. Their projects ran the gamut from large IT projects to engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) projects to strategic business initiatives. Most were expensive—for large IT projects, the average cost was $167 million, and the largest was $33 billion—and many took several years. Our sample drew from respondents around the world, but we found little difference among them in the results.
We found that project cost overruns were commonplace. For example, a recent Accenture survey found that more than 30 percent of capital projects are now completed over budget, and more than 35 percent of projects are finished late.
The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough skills, training, or centers of excellence. It’s that what we do have is focused on control: scope, change, stakeholder management, etc. We have very little ability to consistently execute projects on time or on budget in the face of a constantly shifting reality.
Clearly something is missing from project management practice. What are the principles and best practices for delivering projects on time and on budget? Should we accept the “generally accepted” solution as being the best or correct solution? Should we continue to depend on the “art” of the project manager?
In this book, I’m going to show you the foundational causes of on-time, on-budget project execution. Surprisingly, they have little to do with planning. I, along with my colleagues at Pinnacle Strategies, have discovered that by focusing on the processes and behavior associated with project execution, executives can govern their portfolios more effectively to deliver projects in less time and at lower cost. At the same time, the project teams’ decision-making processes can be made sharper and better aligned with the entire organization to execute projects when they are most needed, and with less drama.
This book will highlight the core principles that project teams can employ—no matter what environment they’re in—to reduce project durations, improve delivery performance, and stay on budget.
I’ll be introducing the project execution methodology called ViewPoint. With ViewPoint, you can transform any project.
- Eliminates the silo effect on project teams, streamlining and improving communication and accountability
- Is a streamlined approach to managing project execution, delivering fast, significant results to improve schedule and budget performance
- Is easily understood, with few obstacles to implementation
- Can easily be adapted by any organization, regardless of current practice and maturity
- Works with and complements existing methodologies and software
- Generates maximum buy-in to changes, or at least generates no significant opposition
- Makes completing your projects a satisfying experience, not a battle to win
If you’re a fan of the Critical Chain Project Management methodology, as I am, you’ll find a clear path to building your implementation, graduating from simple tactics to sophisticated methods of managing your portfolio with this method. Along the way, you’ll be able to engage your teams and your organization with a logical, successful model.
After reading this, you may accuse me of over-simplification of the task of managing projects. I fully understand that not everything that’s important can be fully explained in a book of this length. There are plenty of texts about risk management, controls, scheduling, stakeholder engagement, etc. What I hope to do is shed some light on an area of project management that has been overlooked.
Don’t forget what managing projects is about—it’s not about things, and it’s not about procedures or controls. Project management—successful project management—is about people.
Portfolio results are generated at the project level, and project results are generated at the deliverables, and deliverables are created by people—your most critical resource—accomplishing tasks. Thus, no portfolio or project manager can improve their results without paying attention to what creates those results. In a sense, your portfolio and project strategy is dependent upon the tactics, and the tactics can dictate the strategy.
With the ViewPoint methodology, you’ll find all of the above—in short, successful project management. Throughout this book, I’ll explore the philosophy behind effective project delivery, and I’ll give you a map that you can use to make it happen in your own organization. I’m going to show you methods, principles, and practices that have worked in multiple environments—consistently. In ViewPoint, you’ll find the answer to consistently executing projects on time on budget.
 (Flyvbjerg, September, 2011) Why Your IT Project Might Be Riskier Than You Think
 (Pinnacle Strategies, 2014) Training and PMOs Will Not Save Our Projects; The State of Project Management Practice and Effectiveness.
 (Accenture, 2012), Developing Strategies for the Effective Delivery of Capital Projects