Fools & Their Tools

Posted by Kevin Brady on Wed 5th July 2006 at 09:01 AM, Filed in Programme Management

This week I released a post offering for free a download of a Programme Level Access 2003 Risk /Issue tracking tool Access 2003 Risk & Issue Tracking Tool. I suggest anyone who is serious about risk and issue management needs to download this tool. However, the problem with project management tools and their ability to increase the probability of IT project /programme success rates is nicely explained by the following quote:-


“A fool with a tool is still a fool” 

Link to John’s article on “tools and fools” 11/05/04 John Stelzer is Director fo Industry Development for Sterling Commerce

Last year I attended the Project Management Expo at Olympia. 

It was evident that the event could not have been financed without the sponsorship and support of software houses selling project management tools. Around half of the stands were selling the typical firebrand of “High Gain No Pain” project management tools, with the rest offering IT training courses. When I left the event, a carrier bag was handed to me at the exit gate just stuffed full of brochures from these guys.

Much of the day, I sat around thinking, “does a good tool makeith the man?” Obviously vast amounts of money were being spent on all this software with the clear objective of making project managers more productive and increasing the probabilities of IT project /programme success.
Whilst still churning this question around in my mind a presentation from one of the “money machine” management consultants came to my rescue. I have to say PWC was the least expected source for answers on this important question. From experience, transparency is not a typical component of the business model followed by these guys. Perhaps being consultants from the provinces (Belgium or Sweden – not sure) of PWC’s global empire explains away the paradox. Perhaps they operate on the fringes of the organisations mainstream business model.

The presentation was very well put together and presented a mass of statistics on IT project /Programme failures and correlations between these statistics and the absence or presence of certain processes /tools /types of staff and organisational structure. Much of what they had to say was dynamite if only the people present were awake and had their ears open (alas they didn’t give a hand-out!). Then came the section on project management tools, and “surprise surprise” they found no correlation between the use of project management software tools and increased productivity or improvements in project /programme success /failure statistics.

At this point, I felt that this part of the presentation should have been released over the exhibitions announcements system:-

“Hold on don’t buy this Stuff”.

“Save yourself a lot of money”

“It won’t achieve your strategic goals”

I left the exhibition convinced that project management tools could be useful, but the problem was the fact that perspective clients were looking at them as yet another potential “High Gain No Pain” kiss of life for failing IT departments. Listening to the sales pitches it was clear that the sales people were told to sell their software solutions as a kind of plug and play “iron lung”.

It is clear that if your IT department has ‘Polio’ you do not need an iron lung; you need to seek out an effective long-term cure for the madness that is 70% + annual IT project failure rates.

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Excellent post, Kevin.  Couldn’t agree more.  When managing projects, I try to keep it as “low tech, high touch” as possible to keep the focus on the process and the results rather than on the tool.

Posted by Timothy Johnson  on Thu 6th July 2006 at 08:32 PM | #


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