CIO's Describe Successful Projects

"What makes an IT project successful?"

That was the simple question that I posed to CIO's as I was developing the 4th edition of The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management. They answered with one voice: "The project delivers business value."

That's tough to dispute, yet it challenges project leaders in a whole new way and has implications for how we run projects.

First, it demands that we know how to define business value.  Requirements and specifications can tell us what the product or system has to do, but they can miss the point of WHY the project is being pursued.  

On time and on budget still count, but we'll have to tie them to the actual business case. Most importantly, it assumes that the project team can see through the eyes of their stakeholders. 

Is any of this really new?  The best project managers have always delivered business value, but the attention from CIO's is new. To deliver business value there are three clear focus areas:

  1. Business analysts must have a prominent role on the project team from the beginning.  BA's define business value during Enterprise Analysis. (See the IIBA standards to learn more.)
  2. The project's business case describes the real justification for spending organizational resources.  Again, no news here, but organizations that really do this well have the business case/project justification as a standardized input into a disciplined portfolio management process. (I described portfolio management in an earlier post.)
  3. Stakeholder focus and attentiveness.  The next edition of the PMBoK (the Fifth Edition) will include a new knowledge area: Stakeholder Management.  Why the new emphasis?  Again, its the need to tie project deliverables to business results.  Attending to our stakeholders will give us a better understanding of the intended business value. (Look for commentary on this new knowledge area in future posts.)

Here's the real change: project managers can't just deliver to spec any more. The Triple Constraint of time, budget, and quality must be viewed through the lens of business value. And that's good news, because when we deliver business value, we increase our own value.