Project Auditing - Key to Success

Posted by Kevin Brady on Tue 13th June 2006 at 05:54 PM, Filed in Project Management

During the early part of my Project /Programme Management career I decided it was important to get some programme /project auditing experience. I have to tell you that trying to find a company actually wanting to independently check on the status of its projects /programmes of work was like trying to find someone to volunteer for open heart surgery. Nevertheless, I believed then as I do now, that to become a great project /programme manager one needs to donate at least 2 working weeks to auditing each year. How on earth can one mentor managers, lead with gravitas, define an organisations IT strategy if you have not spent time looking into other peoples work and seeing for oneself what works and what plainly does not ?

This strong opinion on auditing as an integral part of any IT Managers career plan, grew out of the ashes of a “previous life” as a Lloyd’s Underwriter i.e. a hired gambler. Having insured everything from models legs to tower blocks, I was told early on in my training that no one should be given the pen (made an underwriter) without considerable claims experience. It’s important to see what badly underwritten risks cost when they turn septic. These involved visits to building sites during the 1987 storms too see cranes swaying in the wind like a snake charmers cobra, and visiting earthquake zones to understand the science of liquefaction (how buildings sink into the ground during earthquakes).

Until you see things like this, it is impossible to get a feel for the risk and consequently price it (set a premium). Project /Programme Management Training should run along similar lines. To understand what can go wrong you’ve got to see the crashed projects /programmes of work. Its vital if you want with the minimum of personal pain and suffering to develop a nose for what makes a successful IT project /programme delivery. Not much difference between this and studying racehorse form in my view. Please see my white paper on Why IT Projects Fail.

However, I would be advocating none of this IT Project /Programme auditing if bodies such as the PMI (Project Management Institute) and IT management training companies based their training around real life case studies of sufficient quantity and detail. Here is the real problem!! There aren’t any!!

The only source of detailed public and private sector case studies over the last 20 years is the diminishing number of legal disputes between customers and suppliers /consultants. Such recorded legal disputes, for quite deliberate reasons, in my view, are rare events, less frequent than Supernova. However, one book (the only one I know of) which attempts to compile the few detailed public /private sector legal cases in a way which convincingly explains the reasons for large scale IT project failures is :-
“CRASH Learning From the World’s Worst Computer Disasters”

Authored by: - Tony Collins with the help of David Bicknell

Where to buy: -    Amazon          .

The reviews on this webpage will tell you it’s a must in terms of personal IT management training. Remember when reading this great book keep asking the question - Why don’t the money machines ever discuss these Gold Dust case studies?

Please see my own book review:- 

This book was published in 1999 and has never been out of print, despite the case studies often being 10 to 15 years old. Amazon’s best seller statistics show this book to be in its top quartile of best sellers. If the case study pipeline was fully this book would have been out of print years ago, but outdated studies of this kind based on verifiable real-life failures are as rare as hen’s teeth. However, in my view (with the exception of this wonderful book) the laboratory doors are firmly shut.

Access to such useful laboratory data on a continuous basis would change the face of the IT industry forever. BELIEVE ME, when you get into auditing, unless you have Alzheimer’s or you have had a Frontal Lobotomy, the reasons for failure /success are glaring, common and frequently repeated with same mistakes often made by the same organisations year on year.

Your future success and reduced levels of stress at work depend on it.

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Great post Kevin.

Posted by Peter  on Fri 16th June 2006 at 09:03 AM | #


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