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Project Success is Improving – Why, Do You Think?

Posted by Deborah Bigelow Crawford

Deborah Bigelow Crawford has more than 20 years of experience in business management and handles the operational and administrative functions of PM Solutions. Ms. Bigelow Crawford also serves as Co-CEO of the PM College®, PM Solutions' training division, where she is responsible for the fiscal management and quality assurance of all training and professional development programs. Prior to joining PM Solutions, she served as the Executive Director of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and was instrumental in providing the foundation and infrastructure for the exponential growth that the Institute has maintained over the last 10 years. In addition, she served as the Executive Director of the PMI Educational Foundation. Over the last decade, she has authored numerous articles in PM Network, Chief Project Officer, and Optimize magazines. Ms. Bigelow Crawford is also co-author of the book Project Management Essentials. She has presented a variety of papers as a speaker at international symposia and conferences, and is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and the Project Management Institute.

Project management has been around for decades, and so have studies on its effectiveness. The pattern in research over my years in the discipline clearly demonstrates that project success rates are improving.  Despite the fact that I do believe that project success is improving, it made me ask, “What is success?”.  Standish Group’s 2015 Chaos Report found the need to “redefine “project success from just being on time, on budget, to one that is on time, on budget, with a satisfactory result.  This redefinition was to ensure project deliverables met stakeholder expectations and also added value to the organization.

Understanding this definition of success, I wanted to get some perspectives on what might be driving the increase of project success rates. 

PMIs Pulse of the Profession 2017 Report proclaims that “Project success rates are rising.  Organizations today are wasting an average of US $97 million for every US $1 billion invested – that’s a significant 20 percent decline from last year’s Pulse of the Profession findings.”  The report determines that organizations are becoming more mature with project management and are distinguishing themselves by:

  1. Developing project management talent
  2. Managing project benefits
  3. Establishing Project Management Offices (PMOs)
  4. Driving executive sponsorship, and
  5. Addressing agile approaches

PM Solutions’ 2016 research clearly states” for companies seeking to improve their project and program execution, the message is clear:  commit to the development of a PMO at the strategic level, work with the PMO as a partner in strategy formulation and execution, and dig in for the long haul.” Some of the 2016 summary findings concluded that

  1. The majority of firms (85%) have a PMO in place;
  2. PMOs are a strategic resource; there is a direct correlation between the age of the PMO and its capability;
  3. PMOs are now more likely to engage in tasks that impact strategic planning, governance, and portfolio management;
  4. PMOs in high-performing firms are far more likely to have a  training program in place, and
  5. PMO staffs are highly experienced and almost half (45%) have PMPs.

I found numerous sites and articles that credit more successful projects due to engaging stakeholders, leveraging high impact leadership practices, identifying and removing internal obstacles; aligning metrics to guide decision making; using training and development strategies and focusing on business strategy and market.

What I took away from all of my “googling” of recent articles is that there is a thread that is woven in almost all articles regarding what is driving project success.  PMOs for sure have had an impact.  Engaging employees and training them are seen as critical.  Aligning your projects with strategy is crucial.  All of these key threads were mentioned and tied to the success of projects.  What has been your experience in seeing more project success?

Dan Lorenc says:

Project scope is being limited… even the large ERP projects are adopting smaller scope, iterative models (SAP ASAP/Agile).

PMP’s are aware of progressive elaboration, and Agile/Iterative formalize what we have been practicing for many years .... that often our business sponsors cannot articulate their needs (requirements) in terms that our development teams can nail the first time (no return trips!).

One thing the recession did, was limit big bang projects… I expect the Standish report will bear out the fact that smaller project generally are more successful (in scope/schedule/quality). Formalizing this concept of iterative development and releases MAY increase success rates.

Finally, training the Enterprise Framework, from scrums/projects/programs/initiatives/value streams/corp. strategies… will align the organization embed process that will help drive successful projects.

I am excited to see these changes reflected in PMBOK VI.


Posted on October 3, 2017 at 10:25 am

Ron says:

I find your opinion quite interesting, I did the course from iLearnPM and it’s really helpful for PMP Certification Exam

Posted on July 7, 2018 at 1:52 pm

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