Thursday, September 04, 2008

About failing projects and trust

Why do IT-projects fail, run out of scope, run out of money, run out of time?

I do IT-projects for over 30 years. Looking back I recognize a major difference between failing projects and successful projects.

The failing IT-projects were led by project leaders who focused on the product. Architectural designs were influenced by the project leader as a common practice and hierarchical reporting levels were downward bypassed.

The successful IT-projects were led by project leaders who focused on the process. There was a trust relationship between the architect and the project leader. Roles were separated and respected by principle including the hierarchical reporting levels.

What are the chances to succeed with a perfectly "adjusted" architecture if there is no change control plan, no resource management plan, no financial management plan, no documentation plan, no workplace facilities, no reporting plan and no enforcement of hierarchical role encapsulations? (I really have seen such projects.) That's what the project leader should care about.

Project leaders control the process and architects control the product. Both are specialisms on their own with complexities, consequences and details that only a specialist can oversee. The project leader is responsible for an adequate and complete project plan, the architect is responsible for an adequate and complete architecture; both are on an equal level of responsibility with a strict separation of roles. Together they may challenge costs and time-lines, but both from their own role and responsibilities. Neither one is taking the other one's role.

Respected separation of roles and the project leader's trust in the architect's craftsmanship are key drivers for successful projects; rigid separation of the responsibility for the process structure and for the product structure. If these principles are violated the chance of failure is huge. If you - the project leader - don't trust the architect, choose another architect. But do never try to influence the architecture or you risk damage at the detail levels of design and damage of the architect's commitment which results in (unforeseen) damage of your project result!

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