Only You Can Prevent Project Failure

Fifty percent of CRM Projects Fail.

Thirty Five Percent of all IT Projects Fail.

Do you know why? Asuret does.

You probably read Michael Krigsman column on ZDNet dealing with failure.  If you can say this without smiling, he knows how to fail.  He also knows how to prevent it.  His company is Asuret and they have created a solution that leverages wisdom of the crowds principles to show you critical project health indicators in a easy-to-navigate platform to  help you avoid, or at least manage, the type of risk that carries failure with it.  I saw a demo a couple of weeks ago, and I am still impressed with what I saw.

You know your employees know more than they are willing to express freely (they may fear for their job, or to hurt someone’s feelings, or to cause political problems, or to expose their own weaknesses, or– you can add your own reasons why here).  In addition, you know that what they are not saying could be the difference between success and failure.  Even though Change and Risk Management programs are designed to manage that risk, not many organizations undertake them;  the ones that do don’t really understand exactly how to use change management efficiently and their half-baked efforts don’t manage all the risk.

Asuret created a solution that collects information from stakeholders in different departments in the company as enterprise IT projects are company-wide initiatives that affect all departments and all people in the company.  Asuret also collects information from the solution providers (consultants or integrators) and vendors if any of them are involved in the project.  Using an electronic questionnaire that takes about 15-20 minutes to get through and all questions are multiple choice.  This questionnaire has some “demographics” information (such as department, job function) but it also has thresholds built in to prevent an answer to become identifiable.  In other words, this is all very confidential and results are only shared with the appropriate people in an anonymous manner.

To build the questionnaire they create a model of the project to reflect the current situation, risks to monitor, and particulars for that specific stage of the project.  Questions are drawn from a question repository with options for different type of projects (e.g. CRM vs ERP) and different stages (e.g. launching vs end of the first stage).  As agile projects change the focus and methodology from stage to stage the questions vary slightly from one stage to the next. These questions are divided across seven key vulnerability areas (these areas came as a result of years of consulting in change management).  See figure 1.

Figure 1 - Key Vulnerabilities Leading to Project Failure

Once they have the questionnaire compiled they write the potential answers for each of the questions – and assign a numerical value to each answer.  (see figure 2 for an example).  The methodology is similar to the one I used when doing Magic Quadrants and Marketscopes – and it is the key to remaining impartial. Doing this allows them to convert the textual answers to numerical values — which is the next critical part of this process.

Possible Answers to Question on Executive Sponsorship
Figure 2 - Possible Answers to Question on Executive SponsorshipT

These questions (under 50, but varies for each project type and stage) are asked of all concerned stakeholders in the company and third-parties associated with the project.  You can probably start to see the value of knowing what everyone in the company – not just the project people – think of management stability.  Aggregating the answers to all these questions we begin to see the chances for the project to succeed.

And that is exactly what the third step does — with a twist.  See figure 3 for more details.

Figure 3 - Rollup of all Answers in Asuret Product

By aggregating the data for each question asked and the importance level assigned to each, and cross-tabbing that with the consensus (i.e. how many people think it is a problem), you get a clear picture of what the stakeholders and associated third parties think of the project, and its chances of success. That by itself is great, but you can also drill down in each score by job function, by department, and basically by any of the demographics you selected when you created the questionnaire.

Can you imagine if you know before you begin the project that IT doubts the executive leadership?  Or that the business stakeholders believe that the vendors are going to be a problem?  Or that the Executives think that the PMO (project management office) does not have the necessary requirements to succeed in the project?

Talk about Change and Risk Management!

This is a path to success in the project.  You know what problems you are going to find, what hurdles, and how to schedule and manage your project accordingly.

I have been in several large projects in my corporate life, both as a consultant as well as a member of the teams.  I can tell you that all this information is what is usually known after the project starts (actually, usually at the point of failure), because the people who know this beforehand did not want to say anything for fear of retribution of getting into trouble.

As I said, only you can prevent Project Failure — but take a look at Asuret to help you there.

What do you think? Interesting enough? Has a chance? Would you use it?

Disclaimer: Asuret is neither a client nor a prospect of mine, and I am not compensated in any way for this post.  As I said before, I only talk about the products I truly believe in and think that would be interesting to the readers.  There is no conflict of interest, no sponsorship, and no relationship with Asuret that has influenced my opinion of their product.  It is just that cool.

12 Replies to “Only You Can Prevent Project Failure”

  1. I like the concept – certainly forces things on the table for discussion. I also like that they have a basic offering that allows you to run a basic survey and get the results for $2000, which is a good way to be introduced to the service without high expenditure.

    I am wondering if this concept can be expanded to other organizational transformation projects where IT is not necessarily the major component.


  2. Practical Software that seems to get the organization to focus on possible internal business issues rather than the IT implementation.

    A great investment for organizations if they are considering investing big bucks in an IT project,

    Kind regards


  3. Hi Esteban

    Very interesting post.

    My immediate response was what a great idea. Combining the power of surveying various people across the organisation together with some measures that people recognise are related to project success or failure.

    But after the initial elation and a quick look around the Asuret website, the doubts quickly start to creep in.

    The Asuret model implicitly assumes that it understands what drives project success and project failure in all circumstances. (I say project here rather than IT project because no competently run IT project will ever be about IT alone). But I do not see much evidence that Asuret has this understanding. This is partly because no-one really has this understanding in sufficient detail, yet, not to develop an analytical solution. I am pretty sure that Azuret would have great difficulty in explaining the dynamic capabilities and micro-foundations of successful project management – the gold standard of business understanding today. And partly because whilst all projects share some commonalities, they are all somewhat different too. These differences are difficult to capture in a one-size-fits-all tool. Yet it is these very differences that create many of the difficulties that projects face.

    Would I use the Asuret tool? Probably not. Not because i don’t believe it is useful as a simple guide to the obstacles that often block project management success, but because these tools all too easily provide a false sense of security for project management in their activities.

    If we could reduce project management success to a few knobs, dials and levers, we would have done it years ago. But we haven’t. Because we can’t. At least, not yet.

    Graham Hill


    1. Graham,

      I will give you my answer and will ask Michael to chime in on his side as well.

      The piece about project failure that always baffled me, and you can probably discern in my writing, is how can a project fail when we “know” the reasons beforehand? I do use know in quotation because the knowledge is not usually common, and the people who know the problems won’t speak up. I can’t even count how many projects I have been a participant or manager to where this happened. I would say all of then, but as soon as I say that I will realize the one that did not and have to go back and review that part. The value of Asuret from my perspective is the ability to find that out (and there are caveats there as well – people may still chose not divulge their problems) before or during the project (before it crashes the project essentially). That as you say it is an interesting perspective for sure, and something I would definitely consider using.

      The second part I can say that as far as the platform is concerned, it is dynamic enough to support different scenarios and changing the questions / categories as time evolves or different projects demand it. The platform is definitely willing, and from my understanding the guys at Asuret have the training and capacity to root out the differences between projects as to be reflected in the questionnaire.

      do they have the experience and knowledge necessary to make it work in every situation? that is where Michael will chime and answer…


    2. Graham, Great points and I appreciate your taking the time to comment. A few thoughts, however, to clarify what Asuret actually does.

      We offer a solution that packages knowledge and experience into highly-configurable models, which we easily embedd in the software. Experts and practitioners develop those models, so we bring depth to a different aspects of business transformation problems.

      You correctly pointed out the importance of looking across an organization to examine cross-silo issues. This is precisely where our platform excels. Remember, the knowledge of failure points is present among people working on a project. Asuret’s job is to surface that information, compare it to the model, analyze the data, and report conclusions.
      .-= Michael Krigsman´s last blog ..Pay to play: The vendor / analyst mating dance =-.


  4. I find nothing more depressing than the failure of a CRM project within a large client. Centralizing CRM is so important to the long-term health of an enterprise: customers need and expect to be treated as known partners; without CRM, you’re constantly asking customers to describe themselves. I hope this product improves the success rate of CRM initiatives.
    .-= Jeffrey Henning´s last blog ..Convenience Sampling: Everyone’s a Star on YouTube =-.


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