IT projects; if you can't beat them, change the game

Something needs to happen!

Last month I delivered a presentation to the local British Computer Society entitled "IT projects; if you can't beat them, change the game". Much of what I talk about usually relates to the internal quality of software systems and specifically it's aimed at software architects and developers. This presentation was a bit of a change for me in that it focussed on the people that pay for our services such as customers, business sponsors and so on.

A typical contract!

Why? Quite simply; I'm fed up with seeing IT suppliers ripping off customers with late or failed deliveries that are over budget and low on quality. There's a great article called IT industry 'oligarchy' is 'ripping government off', MPs told that talks about this from a UK government perspective, but it isn't limited to the public sector by any means. While most IT suppliers say that they run their projects in a structured way (e.g. with PRINCE2) using the latest technologies and development practices, in reality project management is ad hoc at best and the deliverable barely reaches the lofty heights of the minimum viable product. Things like documentation and configuration management? Well apparently they've gone out of fashion, never to be seen again. Oh, and they use continuous integration and automated unit testing? Congratulations and so they should ... welcome to the 21st century!

Like yin and yang, the presentation was a story of two halves that together aimed to bring balance to the force. I opened up "traditional" software projects, threw out what many customers consider to be "normal" and then showed how collaborative, iterative and agile ways of working can solve many of the major problems associated with IT projects today. If you're interested, you can view the slides online or download them as a PDF file.

This is not project management!

Whether you agree with everything in the slides or not, the key message is very clear ... IT projects don't have to be like this and *you* have the power to change the game.

About the author

Simon is an independent consultant specializing in software architecture, and the author of Software Architecture for Developers (a developer-friendly guide to software architecture, technical leadership and the balance with agility). He’s also the creator of the C4 software architecture model and the founder of Structurizr, which is a collection of open source and commercial tooling to help software teams visualise, document and explore their software architecture.

You can find Simon on Twitter at @simonbrown ... see simonbrown.je for information about his speaking schedule, videos from past conferences and software architecture training.



Re: IT projects; if you can't beat them, change the game

I went back to the begining and read Dr.Royce's description of the waterfall model http://www.cs.umd.edu/class/spring2003/cmsc838p/Process/waterfall.pdf Although no mention of the actuall term waterfall. He did see some flaws in this process and one of his fixes was to have a prelimnary program design phase and review it with the customer.

Re: IT projects; if you can't beat them, change the game

When I was working on large enterprise IT projects, I advocated spending more on high-quality internal staff to improve consistency, quality, and continuity. Too much is often swept under the carpet when you outsource unless you have someone capable vetting it internally, and someone to bridge the gaps when the outsourcer moves their best people on to the next job during the low periods. Unfortunately I never convinced the upper echelons of the merit of this strategy, and I almost got the impression that they'd rather not have in-house expertise because it undermined their ability to blame the supplier if things went wrong. The 'them and us' attitude is always a bad thing for project delivery, but for political management of responsibility it seems to have value to some people. Very frustrating! Frankly I'm very glad to be shot of that environment now.

Re: IT projects; if you can't beat them, change the game

You have discussed this issue from the point of view of the client, but not from that of the supplier (vendor). Aren't clients sometimes (or maybe often) the hard part of the equation. Aren't they the ones causing vendors to either inflate their prices from the get-go or increase their prices later due to their barrage of change requests?

Re: IT projects; if you can't beat them, change the game

As a consultant I'm usually in the supplier position and you're right ... clients are usually the hard part of the equation. I wanted to spin things around for a change to highlight that some suppliers aren't exactly helping themselves to achieve a successful outcome.

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