At the recent Enterprise 2.0 Conference, I was quietly eating essential nutrients (cookies and coffee), when Paul Dandurand, founder and CEO of PIEmatrix, introduced himself. Paul’s company is developing a process management and governance solution for IT projects, and he’s no stranger to this field. Before starting PIEmatrix, Paul co-founded (and sold) FocusFrame, and worked for Siebel Systems and Ernst & Young (now Cap Gemini).
I spoke with Paul about project failure and IT governance.
Paul, you’ve been involved with IT projects for many years. In your experience, why do so many projects fail?
The key failure point seems to stem from lack of deploying, and adhering to, best practices. I can go down the list of other failure factors, such as insufficient executive management support and establishing clear business objectives, and find many cases where the root cause for failure is lack of standard and formal methodologies.
How common is this situation?
Very. And I believe it will be more common in the future as projects become more complex and team members more dispersed around the world (i.e., hybrid outsourcing). The Standish Group Chaos Report found that the vast majority of large enterprise software projects are challenged in some significant way!
Given this, why don’t more companies do something better or different?
For one, many companies are just too busy dealing with fires and short-term priorities. Others have been focused on cutting costs, going offshore, coming back on-shore, moving to new technologies such as SOA, and so on.
Second, many organizations are not sure how to better implement best practices, and I’m not aware of any simple tools to help foster what I call the “sticking with” best practices. Most technology tools in this market are focused more on point solutions such as project planning or test case tracking. Even IT governance tools, which may include specific modules that work well, don’t focus on project lifecycle processes.
What’s the solution to implementing successful IT projects?
I’ll break my idea of the solution down into three parts.
The first is changing the mindset. Many firms spent the last six years cutting cost and outsourcing, and now there seems to be more focus in IT strategy, including reducing risk by improving central processes. I read a Forrester Research study that describes how AXA Insurance saved $150M over three years after investing in centralized formal process methodologies.
Second, organizations should learn from the great minds who have dealt with failures and success over the years. Industry best practices, such as PMI or ITIL, can make a substantial difference in reducing project risk. In addition, IT leadership will often find there are people within their own organization who can contribute to better ways for doing things right.
The third part of the solution is using technology to help foster enterprise best practices in a central model that facilitates both compliance and agility.
Are some projects simply doomed to fail, maybe as a result of organizational issues or politics?
The three solution components I just discussed “can” work for everyone, but as you say there may be organizational roadblocks. The most difficult issues to address are perception and change management. Achieving lasting change requires that value and benefits be made clear to all stakeholders. Executives must see value from a bottom line perspective and front line people must see value from an efficiency standpoint.
Tell us about your upcoming product.
Our team at PIEmatrix is focused on the issues we just discussed, and I believe our product will be the first on the market to help enterprises simplify the transition to better practices. We don’t position the product as simply another IT governance tool, but rather as a process management and governance solution that complements a variety of IT tools, including IT governance applications.
Our software will be hosted on the web as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution using Web 2.0 technologies and models. This is key to helping our customers’ teams, who are working around the globe, get on the same page and speak the same language when it comes to project processes and best practices.
The approach is simple. Our customers decide on project lifecycle stages, which we call the slices of the “pie,” and then loads best practice content into the tool as layers. These layers can include the customer’s own best practices in addition to standard industry content such as Six Sigma or the PMI project management process. Our “matrix” view makes it easy to work with multiple sets of best practices in an integrated manner. The matrix offers a detailed view where process steps, people’s roles, and project deliverable files can all be seen on the same page.
All this content can be managed centrally (or globally), and is easier to use than a wiki, for example. For executives, our dashboard displays project portfolio information related to progress in the projects being examined. This ensures compliance with best practices in areas such as Sarbanes-Oxley, FDIC, FDA, HIPPA, and so on.
When will it be released?
As we speak, we are moving into beta for our first version with a few customers, and plan to have the commercial version on the market later this year.