Archive for August, 2009

We’re going SaaS‚ no exceptions

I attended a PS Village meeting last week. PS Village is a pretty interesting, fun and educational breakfast meeting that takes place in various cities all across the United States and Canada. The attendees are primarily professional service executives, project management and software professionals. The sponsors are Professional Services Automation and project management software solution providers like Tenrox and others. The breakfast meeting lasts about two hours, is pretty informal, and the attendees simply sit around the table and discuss a few topics together.

One of the people at my table (name and company will not be disclosed of course) was the leader of a professional services team in a large multi-national organization, let’s call him PS-man for short. He was complaining about a meeting he attended where the division’s CEO articulated his strategy for the division’s product and service offerings.  The CEO said, and I quote:  “We’re going SaaS, no exceptions”.

PS-man was quite frustrated and unhappy with this sudden shift. To him, the CEO had not articulated a believable vision and a clear path to achieve that vision. According to PS-man, it seemed like the CEO, being sort of new to the job, had heard of the industry buzzwords and decided the industry trends are the way to go. However, PS-man felt that neither the company’s products nor his team were ready for the shift to the SaaS (software as  a service) model. They did not believe that SaaS was the answer to their challenges or that it could drive new growth. PS-man’s reaction was “Yeah right, we’re going SaaS until a sales guy comes with the next big order for an in-house implementation”.

Our table spent the breakfast talking about SaaS, its benefits, how to transition a traditional product and service offering towards the SaaS model and the roadblocks one can face on this journey. At the end of the meeting, PS-man seemed more sold on the opportunity that SaaS could represent for him and his team, but he was still unsure as to whether his company’s leadership truly is willing to make the investment, has the sponsorship and the expertise to navigate the company towards this change. I tried to highlight a roadmap to SaaS from our experience, and how to take some steps towards this goal without completely abandoning what works for them now.

This meeting reminded me of how executives can so quickly get out of touch with their teams. While our “visions” and ambitions may sound great and exciting to some, many out in the field will react exactly as PS-man did. Your team has to see and feel that you have really done your homework, you have thought it through in great detail, and that you are truly in it to win it. If you are unsure, unprepared or it looks like you are simply following the crowd then even a good strategic initiative and good intentions can actually hurt instead of help the organization.

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The 2009 Chaos Report – Is Project Success Really that Rare?

The Standish Group released its widely quoted report (available for purchase here) on project success in April 2009. The latest report is based on a survey of more than 300 organizations and 30 interviews. A summary of the findings is shown in the figure below.


The news is not very positive. According to this report the number of IT projects that failed has actually increased since 2006, successful projects are also alarmingly harder to find. Here is a far smaller and less official survey on software project success rates.

From our own experience and all the anecdotal evidence I have gathered projects are often late and over budget but they are mostly successful. In my opinion the Standish Group’s survey is overly pessimistic on the success rate of IT projects. I find nothing on the Internet that explains Standish Group’s survey approach or confirms these findings. It would be better if they provided more details as to how they assess project success and how they can backup their claim of a negative trend in worldwide IT project performance.

The report did not highlight any new reasons for the higher project failure rates. There are many more capable and highly qualified project managers today than in 2006, there are better tools, an abundance of easily accessible information on project management lifecycles and methodologies, and better collaboration between all project contributors/stakeholders. I simply cannot see how the end results can be this bad.