Why do projects fail? Usually, it’s not for technical reasons. In fact, not a single respondent to a recent survey by Gartner Group cited “technical skills” as the cause of IT project delivery failures.
The typical causes of failure are poorly defined requirements, ineffective sponsorship, and weak management controls.
Successful projects do not just happen. They are the result of strong governance.
Overcome Project Pitfalls
In my experience, the keys to good governance are:
- Clarity of roles, responsibilities and authority, and
- Keeping the right people informed with the right level of information.
I’ve seen programs fail to deliver on an executive’s strategic objectives, for example, when program managers continually prioritize well-intentioned but parochial near-term goals. I’ve seen teams fail to raise issues for fear of looking bad, just as I’ve also seen teams raise every issue without anyone taking ownership of them. It is only when teams fail to deliver on expectations that these issues become visible to senior management. At that point, good governance is the cure, but had it been used from the outset it would have caught these problems earlier or prevented them entirely.
The Importance of Sponsorship
Good governance begins with strong sponsorship. I recommend all projects have a sponsor to act as project champion and be the final escalation point to resolve project issues. Sponsors can be appointed by the executive team. Many project sponsors are senior members of the executive committee and regularly oversee multiple projects.
Pega’s Recommended Levels of Project Governance
Project governance ensures that issues and risks get raised as they arise and can be escalated as needed. I have found that the most successful projects rely on three levels of oversight:
- Project Governance: This bi-monthly to monthly review allows the client, system integrator, Pega account executive, and Pega practice leader to validate with the business owner the integrity of the application being built, and to raise any new issues. All project stakeholders must attend and be ready and willing to take responsibility for removing roadblocks. Publish the agenda and key materials for participants to review in advance.
- Weekly Project Update: This weekly check-in, led by the project manager, keeps the business owner up to date on progress, and gives the team a chance to raise issues before they develop into risks that might impact the overall project. It’s also the right place to keep a tight rein on the scope of the project, and to enforce compliance with Pega Guardrails—Pega technology’s built-in tests that ensure adherence to best practices.
- Daily Standup Meeting: This is a 15-minute daily meeting with the project team to report on goals for the day. It’s an opportunity for the project manager to keep people on schedule, on task, and to unearth any dependencies or obstacles. It’s a great way to maintain laser focus on what’s inside and outside in the project’s scope.
This multi-level governance model is an effective way to keep projects on track, and to ensure that the right people are talking to each other at the right time. Transparency is key to its success. Make sure teams know when to escalate issues to the next level, while at the same time give them the power to take action themselves. Clarity around everyone’s roles and responsibilities goes a long way to preventing issues being raised more often than necessary.