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...