The Project Phenomenon 

Over my career I’ve noted several trends when it comes to Information System (IS) projects, across both the public and private sector. While many others have gone before me, I’m keen to provide a perspective so others can learn.

It’s always going to be hard to achieve the right balance between the elements of a project, the balance of people, process and systems within the project’s constraints of time, cost, quality and scope. A key factor in achieving a project outcome is managing the elements of these constraints. In my experience, however, because of shareholder demands or political direction, projects often become limited by the following:

  • You can have it quick
  • You can have it cheap, or
  • You can have it good

Pick two, because many will struggle to achieve all three.

Some in the technology industry will over promise on projects as they are keen to win the customer. Improvements in technology, tools and resources may mean that you can leverage efficiencies that couldn’t be factored in during past projects. Fair point.

But the rule still stacks up, especially with new problems or complex problems. If you over promise here, you will under deliver.

The hard truth is if you want your project outcome to be of the highest of standards and you want it quickly, it is going to cost. Or if you want your project delivered quick and cheap, you will be sacrificing the quality of the outcome.

I warn against organisations opting for the quick and cheap scenario – as timelines and budgets are tightened – to produce “results”. This scenario, using the rule above, does mean that there has to be some sacrifices made to the quality of the outcome in order to deliver.

The other element that is proving to be a challenge is that people and change takes time. Technology can do things quickly, but people take time to adjust, learn and adopt. Often this is not factored in during the project planning phase and as a result the time, cost and quality elements take a serious hit, if change management is to be adequately addressed.

So remember, while the factors of time and cost are more tangible, quality must be carefully considered if comprises are to be made. We need to build quality outcomes with the opportunities that we have, so that they can stand the test of time or age gracefully as an organisation grows.

Julie Kilner

Consulting Manager