For many years, organizations, researchers, and practitioners have analyzed how to manage technology projects successfully.

Among them is the Standish Group, which regularly publishes its findings in its Chaos reports. In 1994, Standish reported a shocking project success rate of only 16 percent; another 53 percent of the projects were challenged, and 31 percent failed outright. In subsequent reports, Standish updated its findings, yet the numbers remained troublesome.

The numbers indicate large problems with technology projects and have had an enormous impact on software development and project management.

They suggest that the many efforts and best practices put forward to improve how companies manage and deliver technology projects are hardly successful. …

Any system is only as good as how well it is used. If it’s a CRM, ERP, or any other system, when users don’t know how to use the system effectively the benefits of the new system for your organization will be small, or even negative.

This means user enablement is critical to the success of a project.

It is not enough to simply have your new system in place two weeks before your go-live date.

Your users need to know:

1) Why you’re implementing the new system. When it comes to organizational changes and operational logistics, many employees will be instrumental in the change you’re promoting. …

Throughout the past 15 years that I’ve been working as an independent project recovery consultant and interim CIO, I have observed executives’ frustration — even exasperation — with information technology and their IT departments generally. Some of the more common refrains are:

“I don’t understand IT well enough to manage it.” “Although they work hard, my IT people don’t seem to understand the very real business problems we’re facing.”

In fact, the complaint I hear most often from CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and other high-ranking officers, is that they haven’t reaped the business value of their high-priced technology. …

After investing $367.5 million in a child support enforcement system, the only thing that the state of Texas has to show for is some hard-won lessons.

Initiated by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in 2007, “T2” aimed to deliver a secure, web-based system to automate manual functions, streamline daily operations, enable staff to manage case information online, and offer multiple platforms for parents to communicate with the Child Support Division (CSD). …

I work exclusively with executives and when there is one thing that I have learned over the years is that effective executives have at least a basic understanding about project management and their roles in it.

When you look in a dictionary for the word “executive” you will find an entry similar to the one below.

noun — a person with senior managerial responsibility in a business.

adjective — relating to or having the power to put plans or actions into effect.

An executive directs, plans, and coordinates operational activities for their organization and are normally responsible for devising policies and strategies to meet the organization’s goals. …

Many people and organizations seem to have serious trouble separating between the inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes, impact, and the results of a project.

This leads to lot’s of confusion, bad communication, disappointed project teams, and disappointed stakeholders.

Below you will find my take on these terms and their relevance for your project.


Inputs are very often confused to be synonymous with activities. However, these terms are not interchangeable.

Inputs, in simple terms, are those things that we use in the project to implement it.

For example, in any project, inputs would include things like time of internal and/or external employees, finances in the form of money, hardware and/or software, office space, and so on. …

Many people are discussing strategy and strategizing as if they were the sole outcome of a rational, predictable, analytical process.

But reality is often the opposite; emotional, unpredictable, and chaotic.

How organizations create and implement strategy is an area of intense debate within the strategy field.

Famous researcher on management and strategy Henry Mintzberg has a very clear position in this debate. He distinguishes between intended, deliberate, realized, and emergent strategies.

These four different kinds of strategy are summarized in the figure below.

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Intended strategy is strategy as conceived by the top management team. Even here, rationality is limited and the intended strategy is the result of a process of negotiation, bargaining, and compromise, involving many individuals and groups within the organization. …

Recognizing good strategy is hard.

You need to understand the organization, the market(s) it is operating in, its competitors, its strengths, and its challenges.

On the other hand, recognizing bad strategy is easy.

Richard Rumlet coined the term “bad strategy” in 2007 at a short Washington, D.C., seminar on national security strategy. He later explained the concept in detail in his must read book “ Good Strategy Bad Strategy “. He is one of the world’s most influential thinkers on strategy and management and has always challenged dominant thinking.

Bad strategy is not the same thing as no strategy or strategy that fails rather than succeeds. It is an identifiable way of thinking and writing about strategy that is, unfortunately, still practised at many organizations. …

Project portfolio management is not necessarily complex. The goals are clear and simple.

1) Maximizing the value of your portfolio

2) Seeking the right balance of projects

3) Creating a strong link to your strategy

4) Doing the right number of projects

Achieving these goals, on the other hand, is not such an easy task.

Especially balancing your portfolio is more an art than a science.

Maximizing Value

Assuming you have your list of projects for the portfolio sorted by their value, as well as guidance on your available funding, project selection based on the first goal is easy. If the available funding will cover all of the proposed projects, you will be in the enviable position of moving forward without further portfolio adjustment. …

The title of this article is a quote from Tony Robbins, and he is absolutely right.

One of the main reasons technology projects fail so often is their (underestimated) complexity.

Managing and reducing complexity in projects should be an urgent concern for any organization.

But before you can manage and reduce complexity you should be able to understand and recognize it.

Instead of a binary understanding of complexity in projects (it is complex, or it is not) you should be thinking in three dimensions of complexity:

1) Structural complexity
2) Sociopolitical complexity
3) Emergent complexity

My free online Project Complexity Assessment will guide you through these dimensions by asking you 38 questions. …


Henrico Dolfing

I help C-level executives in the financial service industry with interim management and recovering troubled technology projects.

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