Friday, November 27, 2015

More Project Disasters

And another one from the Why Do Projects Fail blog...

Los Angeles Unified School District 
e-Enabled Learning Tools Project
Apr 2015  
Cost: $1.3B

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s efforts to provide every student, every teacher and every administrator with a iPad turned into a disaster. Launched in 2013, the initial plan called for more than 100,000 iPads to be purchased. Some were to be loaded with apps containing curriculum that would be used for instructional purposes while others were to be used for standardized testing.

From the initial roll out the problems were clear. Students were able to bypass the built in security to access non-authorized content while the authorized content that was provided suffered its own quality problems. Reports indicate that the authorized content was not written in accordance with applicable teaching standards and those problems were compounded by the fact that the system suffered reliability problems that frequently rendered the content inaccessible anyway.  

The project’s Director publicly criticized the system saying “Making the materials ‘usable’ has required extraordinary, unsustainable, and un-scalable resources.” Publishing an open correspondence the Director reports that only 2 of 69 schools in the initial pilot were still attempting to use the tool. The remaining schools had given up. Noting that less than 5% of the target student body had reliable access to the content, the letter also noted that even when used, the content failed to meet all appropriate requirements.

Contributing factors as reported in the press: failure to gain stakeholder support; missing requirements; quality related issues; and failure to fully recognize the transformational shift in learning that e-enabled learning represents.

What They Should Have Done

  • appoint a good, experienced project manager
  • buy a copy of 'Agile Project Management in easy steps'
  • take an agile approach, with full user involvement 
  • user experience design 
  • try it out on a small pilot (1 school not 69)
The report also mentions that this is the second project from the Los Angeles Unified School District that has featured in the Catalog of Catastrophe, when will they ever learn?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Project Disasters

I've decided to have a look at some project disasters to see if there is anything new to learn and just had to start with this one:

Volkswagen Group: Vehicle Emission System
Probably the most expensive scandal in recent history, where Volkswagen basically put in special software to cheat the emission testing protocols used by governments. It has shaken confidence in a once solid brand. It is both an embarrassment for the company and a financial disaster for the shareholders. In addition to fines of up to $18 billion at least $25 billion has been lost due to a dive in stock price.

And not to forget that Volkswagen also own and produce Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati motorbikes and truck makers Scania and Man. In total more than 11 million vehicles are affected.

Full report available at:

So what went wrong?

They put profit before quality 
They flouted government regulations
They failed to disclose and actually withheld information 
They didn't test the diesel vehicles on real roads
They failed to live up to customer expectations 
They deliberately falsified advertising claims

This is not a project failure it is a corporate failure but somewhere in there was a project manager who went along with an illegal project instead of pushing back.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bonfire Night

Well it all went very well in the end and we got a very good write up and photographs in the local paper. It rained pretty solidly up until about 5pm but stopped on cue. The only problem was the ground was so soft we had a few problems parking all the cars and ended up with people parking in the street. Also we had to cancel two of the three games we had scheduled on the Saturday to be on the safe side with the state of the pitches but could probably have got away with playing them.

We had a few other minor issues but the wash up meeting should capture those and hopefully next year can only be better still. Now back to the day job...

Friday, October 16, 2015

Something Completely Different

and now as they say for something completely different...

Bonfire Night
Topsham Rugby Football Club have one of the biggest and best firework displays in the county and that takes a lot of project management. So at the current moment everything else is getting put off until after the 5th of November.

Thereafter normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Making It All Happen

The six steps I have been illustrating over the past six weeks are all fairly straight forward and very achievable, but they will take some time. However help is at hand:

I have mentioned the resources provided by the Project Management Institute and the Office of Government Commerce (now Axelos) but there are also some of my books that provide a more straight forward alternative:
If you want detailed guidelines for the implementation of all the things I’ve been talking about, they are all set out in Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps.

If you want guidelines for developing project management excellence, they are set out in Effective Project Management in easy steps.

If you are running agile project, then guidelines for developing agile project management excellence are set out in Agile Project Management in easy steps.

And last but not least if you are wondering where you will find the time to do it all then Effective Time Management in easy steps will provide you the answers.

So draw up a list of what you want to achieve and plan and manage the project like any other major business change. I say project but it could require a program (unless your organisation is already a good way up the capability maturity matrix) as it is likely to take several years to implement fully (and that by definition that should be a program not just a project).

Your Mission
I would like to leave you with one final point to consider: without the full commitment of your organisation (and that really does mean support from your very top management) none of this will happen, so I would suggest that’s your starting point. 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to produce a high-level plan for what you want to achieve, then sell the benefits of these best practices to your organisation. If you need any help I am always pleased to offer help or advice to fellow professionals and this is the URL of my web site should you wish to contact me:

Friday, September 04, 2015

Step 6: Portfolio Management Deployment

The final step in the deployment of best practices is the big one, portfolio management. Not many organisations have yet achieved this, so this is the area that can deliver real competitive advantage to any business.

Yet again it is absolutely essential to involve all the project and program managers in the process and yet again the steps are similar to those involved in deploying project or program best practices, with one main exception at step 2:

Step 1: Define and document a standard portfolio life cycle. This is my own particular take on a portfolio life cycle diagram:

Step 2: Set up a central project database, which is essential to the process.

Step 3: Define the portfolio management processes to support the portfolio life cycle. These can be based on off-the-shelf standards such as the PMI's Standard for Portfolio Management, OGC's Management of Portfolios or a good book on the subject (such as my own Project Program and Portfolio Management in easy steps). This will put you on level 2 of the CMM matrix for portfolio management.

Step 4: Establish a portfolio office to maintain and develop the processes, or develop the program or project office into the role. This will put you on level 3.

Step 5: Define portfolio reporting standards and metrics and transfer them to the portfolio office to implement, support and maintain. This puts you on level 4.

Step 6: Task the portfolio office with optimising the processes and standards, which takes you to level 5.

Next week I will look at making it all happen, some resources you can use and how to go about it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Step 5: Peer Review Deployment

As with the earlier steps, I believe once again that it is essential to involve all project and program managers in the process.

Start by defining, documenting and agreeing a high-level peer review process based on fixed points in a project and program life cycle.

Develop the necessary standards and guidelines to support the process or base them on something like the gateway review process (see below).

Transfer everything to the project and/or program office to maintain, support and develop.

Identify potential peer reviewers and provide them with any necessary training in the process.

Select a pilot project, run peer reviews on it, review the outcome of the pilot, refine and roll out the process and standards.

Then repeat the same steps for a program.

Gateway Review Process
This is an example of the Gateway peer review process as it is applied to programs and projects:

A project (on the left) has a review at the completion of each stage, with a focus on: 1) Business Justification, 2) Delivery Strategy, 3) Investment Decision, 4) Readiness for Service, and one or more on 5) Benefits Realisation.

A program (on the right) has a review during the Definition Phase, one for each Delivery Phase, and a final one during the Closure Phase. But please don’t ask me why they decided to call them all gateway 0!

Next week we will look at the final step in the process, portfolio management.