Planning to succeed

I already wrote a post about the lack of maturity of the processes in our industry. In this sense, I plan to write about different topics like IT Governance, Quality Management, Requirement Management, Service Level Management or Measuring ROI/TCO.

Today I just want to write about how to plan in advance the way to assess if a project has achieved its goal or not.

Just before launching a new  project, I usually ask to the initiative owner (in my team or in my customer) how we will measure the success, and many times there is no real answer.

Well, frankly it’s not an easy question.

A new initiative should be linked to a clear goal and it should be possible to check if we have achieved that goal or not.

Many times the goal is not quantifiable, is intangible or simply we don’t have previous data to measure  how much we can improve. Other times, the goal is something implicit and nobody wants to formalize it. I mean, sometimes a new investment is related to another initiative that didn’t bring the expected value.

The statistics of failed projects are quite amazing. There are many surveys about this. Though measuring statistics around project failure is very difficult, in part because failure is not a black or white “event”, most of the surveys say that 30-70 percent of IT-related projects fail. There are different reasons and areas of improvement, but at the end of the day, this reality is linked to the fact that the ICT industry is not mature enough.

Anyway, the team (customer and providers) that is working together in a new initiative should work under an objective way to measure the success of the project in a predefined timeframe.

The goal shouldn’t be expressed in technical terms. It’s not enough to have a good requirement definition, but we need to understand the positive impact expected from the project: the real reason that justifies the investment (the VALUE)

When possible, success should be measured in a quantifiable way (ie: reduce xx% the operational costs, improve yy% the response time, increase zz% the number of orders processed in 1 hour, etc). We can call them “hard goals“. But always, at least, we should be able to define a goal that could be assessed or appraised: “soft goals“.
In this way, we will be able to meet all together at the end and agree on the level of success.

This is related too with how we can measure the ROI (Return on Investment)
We can’t manage what we don’t measure.