Effective Project Management, ITIL and BSM

As we march down the road towards business service management (BSM) it is clear that traditional project management techniques have not been successful in IT. It’s time to elevate IT project management to the level of required skill for all IT workers. Why? Because just 30% of IT projects come to a successful conclusion.

This is a good thing if these projects are terminated during the planning phase, but is a very bad thing if they are abandoned during execution or after. These project failures reportedly cost the industry $75 billion dollars per year. As if that were not enough, on average 51% of IT projects exceed budget by 189% and deliver only 74% of the promised functionality.

This got me thinking about a research report that I wrote in early 2006 about what makes some firms successful while others fail at adopting ITIL. One of the key findings in my report was that the successful treated ITIL adoption as a formal project.

Effective Project Management

Project management is not new to many IT organizations, although effective project management is probably scarcer than many want to admit. Many program or project management offices have been “doing projects” to IT for quite some time. Some IT organizations have also created a project management silo as well. However, many are incapable of resisting the temptation to make project management bureaucratic. Interestingly a CIO who came from project management ran the most smoothly operating IT organization I have ever worked with.

The IT community has a certification available to it: Project+ from CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association). However, until the Project+ certification from CompTIA, there was no project management course leading to industry-recognized certification in IT project Management. Most companies offering project management courses, offer course(s) in IT project management, but many existing project management certification programs are generic in developed mostly from the architectural and construction industries. They also have very stringent application requirements and demand proof of hundreds or thousands of hours of project management skills—something very difficult to deliver for an IT person who more often than not uses no project management methodology and usually fails.

One notable exception is PRINCE2, but it has had very limited acceptance in North America, and is popular mostly in the European Union (EU). Moreover, the cost to gain a PRINCE2 certification is currently excessively expensive for most individuals and organizations to accept.

After looking deeply into Project+ it become clear that effective project management skills are just as important as understanding ITIL if you really want to improve IT operations. It also made me wonder if negative perceptions of ITIL can be traced back to a lack of project management skills by those trying to implement ITIL (and failing).

In what follows I make the case for providing low cost IT-centric project management training (like that found in Project+) for everyone in IT that you would consider for ITIL Foundation training. Should I ever run an IT organization again, I will do this.

Another Leg

IT service management (ITSM) is the subset of BSM and ITIL that focuses on managing IT organizational workflow. The other legs of the BSM stool are IT quality management (e.g., Six Sigma, TQM, etc.) and IT governance (CobiT, M_o_R, etc.) In the context of this analogy, project management would be the floor the stool sat upon.

In light of the clear failure of IT project management to date, it now seems the BSM stool needs another leg—in some form dedicated to addressing the uniqueness that is IT project management. And IT projects are different from other projects in a number of very important ways: