The 60% – 70% CM / Project Management Dilemma


In 2003 – 2004 Trottier and Associates joined with ‘Performance Technologies Inc.’ to look at; “Why does IT/PM have such ineffective ‘success to failure’ performance results?”

The data used was published by such reliable research groups as The Standish Group and the Gardner Research Group. The key issues and each of their key ‘influencers’ were identified.

Those key issues and ‘influencers’ were then looked at on a deeper level by Trottier and Associates to identify which key issues and their key influencers were purely technical focused, organization / culture focused, people focused, and/or IT/PM process focused.

From there we identified a more effective approach to IT/PM implementation by combining three disciplines; Project Management, Total Quality Management, and Organizational Development and Effectiveness.

The following ‘base-results’ come from The Standish Group’s research from 1994 to 2009 looking at the ‘success to failure’ IT/PM rates. Although there is some ‘progess’ since 1994, it is still amazing how significant the ‘challenged / failure’ % rate is over this period of time:

                          1994   1996    1998   2000    2002   2004   2006   2009
% Successful       16        27        26        28        34        29        35       32  
% Challenged      53       33        46        49         51        53        46       44
% Failed               31       40        28        23         15       18         19       24

This report “measures success by only looking at whether the projects were completed on time, on budget and with required features and functions (met user requirements). The organization leaves out of its measures the quality, the risk, and customer satisfaction.

Thus, one needs to consider the variables considered (on time, on budget and with required features and functions (met user requirements) when looking at the results and your interpretations on why IT projects fail. “But we, PMs, already know that all these measurements work in tandem and need to keep this in mind.”

“The report shows that software projects now have a 32% success rate compared to 35% from the previous study in 2006 and 16% in 1994. On the other hand, 44% of projects were challenged (late, over budget and/or with less than the required features and functions) while 24% failed (cancelled prior to completion or delivered and never used).“

Adapted from: “The Curious Case of the CHAOS Report – 2009  

Key issues and key ‘negative influencers’:

Project Initiation and Planning Issues

  • Unclear or unconvincing business case.
  • Insufficient or non-existent approval process.
  • Poor definition of project scope and objectives.
  • Insufficient time or money given to project.
  • Lack of business ownership and accountability.
  • Insufficient and/or over-optimistic planning.
  • Poor estimating.
  • Long or unrealistic timescales; forcing project end dates despite best estimates.
  • Lack of thoroughness and diligence in the project startup phases.

Technical and Requirements Issues 

  • Lack of user involvement (resulting in expectation issues)
  • Product owner unclear or consistently not available.
  • Scope creep; lack of adequate change control.
  • Poor or no requirements definition; incomplete or changing requirements.
  • Wrong or inappropriate technology choices.
  • Unfamiliar or changing technologies; lack of required technical skills.
  • Integration problems during implementation.
  • Poor or insufficient testing before go-live.
  • Lack of QA for key deliverables.
  • Long and unpredictable bug fixing phase at end of project.

Stakeholder, Management and Team Issues

  • Insufficient attention to stakeholders and their needs; failure to manage expectations.
  • Lack of senior management/executive support; project sponsors not 100% committed to the objectives; lack understanding of the project and not actively involved.
  • Inadequate visibility of project status.
  • Denial adopted in preference to hard truths.
  • People not dedicated to project; trying to balance too many different priorities.
  • Project team members lack experience and do not have the required skills.
  • Team lacks authority or decision making ability.
  • Poor collaboration, communication and teamwork.

Project Management Issues 

  • Weak, on-going management skills and process; inadequately developed or inexperienced.
  • Inadequate tracking and reporting; not reveiving progress reports / discussions regulary or diligently enough.
  • Lack of group problem-solving, and group dynamic facilitation skills.
  • Ineffective time and cost management.
  • Lack of leadership, communication and facilitations skills.
  • Lack of ‘risk mitigation’.
  • No project management ‘best practices’.

Having further sorted and classified these ‘negative influencers’, we found the following results:

Purely Technical focused;   5 %
Organization / Culture focused;   49 %
People focused;   12 %
IT /  Project Management Process focused,  34 %

These results led us to understand that a different approach was needed or, that some additional methods and approaches integrated within an IT/PM approach, would give a higher success rate by filling in the ‘gaps / weaknesses’ identified by the ‘influencers’ above.

The following is a generic IT/PM ‘approach’ which can be ‘customized’ for each particular organization. We created such by integrating concepts, methodologies and tools from Project Management, Total Quality Management, and Organizational Development and Effectiveness practices.

Next Generation Project Management Process: 

About Patrick A. Trottier

I am a 30 plus year applied Organizational Development practitioner having honed my craft in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Presently living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., I am currently developing the next evolution of O.D. termed; 'Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC)®, and focusing on Emergent OD®, Emergent Change® and the development of Emergent Organizations® within my professional practice.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The 60% – 70% CM / Project Management Dilemma

  1. Jeff Conklin says:

    Nice summary of the key issues, Patrick!

    I highly recommend “The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices: The Reality of Managing Complex Problems in Organizations”, by Paul Culmsee and Kailash Awati (2011). They explore why current approaches to IT projects fail (lack of understanding of the fundamentally social nature of the process), and offer specific concrete techniques for supporting the processes of sense making and building shared understanding, plus case studies that illustrate how these techniques have succeeded in socially complex projects. (Full disclosure: Culmsee and Awati are colleagues of mine.)

    Dr. Jeff Conklin

    • Hi Jeff – Just read a review of the book you shared. Interesting that, at first glance, many of their ideas and paradigms fit like a glove to our ‘learnigs over time’ as well as our perspectives, approaches and methods and models, particularly:

      – Paul and Kailash view “organisations as networks of commitments”. (We view organization as ‘network structures’, with ‘nodes and links that emerge and evolve based on the adaptational needs of the organizational’s goals and desired results and its external drivers /environment’ (vs. the traditional static hierarchy) They explain: We believe this phrase spells out an ideal of what organisations ought to be: a group of people working towards common, mutually agreed goals, via commitments that are made based on a shared understanding.

      We call this creating ‘partnerships’; – simply, a shared responsibility to achieve common goals and the sharing of information and resources to achieve such. This ‘network and partnership’ approach also tends to ‘break down’ the traditional silos and ‘territorialism’ of traditional organizational structures. IMHumbleOpinion, most work gets done ‘across traditional organizational structures’, but that is another topic for another day…

      For the last 20 years my definition of an organization has simply been: “People coming togehter to achieve something.” But then, I am a simple person with simple thoughts.

      – The authors also seem to teeter on complexity theory and complex adaptive systems… a critical paradigm in our findings also…

      – They mention ‘dialogue mapping’… see this blog’s write-up on ‘…The Power of Strategic and Generative Dialogue’…

      – They also state that‘“Best Practices” are the root cause of almost all the problems we face in delivering complex projects. They (best practices) are naive approaches to resolving wicked problems – those that prove highly resistant to any attempt to coerce them into neat, little linear plans and GANTT charts because they have so many permutations and unseen elements that prevent them from being well-understood.

      Their comments about ‘best practices’ is certainly astute… the ‘best practices’ in the ‘Next Generation’ model ascribes to two fundamental elements: a. ‘best practices’ specifically emerge from the ‘learnings’ and internal ‘continuous process improvements’ of a particular organization – and are only specific to that organization, and b. complex adaptive paradigms (a best practice unto itself) continuously evolve new learnings and ‘best practices’ as an open system of metal models, perspectives and methods – thus, not static but constantly evolving…

      The ‘best practices’ that I have ever experienced with my clients are the ones the people in the organization design, implement and use.

      It seem that ‘new thinking’ and integrated disciplines, methods and models are emerging…

      Would be good to have a ‘dialogue’ with yourself and your colleagues … I would find that interesting…

      All the best…

      Again, Thanks Jeff, for that reference. I certainly will find a copy and will continue to add to my learning – good stuff…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s