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Why Projects Fail

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I was doing a little research for this post and like every good writer these days I started with Google. I typed in "why projects fail" and came up with 16,700 entries. The first few pages were dominated with entries like "Top 10 Reasons Projects Fail" and "Why Projects Fail: Part 1." So what were some of the answers? Some articles blamed a lack of user involvement. Others said projects were started for the wrong reasons.

There was nothing related, however, to organizational fit or to measuring intangible benefits as part of your ROI. It made me wonder: Will the results of the Researching the Value of Project Management study change the way the profession thinks about project failure? Will things like the makeup of the organization--and how project management plays into that--become more important to a project's failure or success? And, how can organizations use the results to improve the way they achieve project results?

All good questions, right? And I hope to get the chance to ask the study's principal researchers, Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, at PMI's North American Congress 2008 in Denver, Colorado, USA. It's coming up in October, and I hear they will be giving a special presentation on the research.

Coming Soon ...

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Want proof that project management does add value to organizations? Check out a short video on Researching the Value of Project Management featuring fresh insights on both the tangible and intangible benefits of project management from principal investigators Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, and some of the study's contributing researchers, including Terence J. Cooke-Davies, Ph.D.

The Value of Standards

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Did you know that this month PMI is celebrating 25 years of standards creation? Tuesday, I interviewed Debbie O'Bray for an upcoming PMI.org story I am writing on PMI standards. She has been involved in standards development for quite some time and is currently a member of the Standards Member Advisory Group.

The interview got me thinking about the added value of standards. For some project professionals, they serve as a constant companion while for others these standards are guidelines or references project professionals can turn to with questions. But for everyone, the standards help create a common language to help communicate about everything from project scope to risk. And that common language is a key intangible benefit revealed in the Researching the Value of Project Management study.

In the presentation of the study's preliminary results in Warsaw, Poland, principal investigator Janice Thomas, Ph.D., said:

"The good news is that most organizations demonstrate intangible value and its significant intangible value around decision-making, around strategy, around effective work cultures, around alignment of approach, around terminology ..."

For my story, I also interviewed team members of different standard development teams. They devote time--sometimes years--to helping develop PMI's library of standards.

Obviously they see the value of standards. And this leads me to one conclusion: The value of standards and the value of project management go hand in hand.

The Value of Satisfaction

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Companies around the globe are constantly touting their ability to keep customers satisfied as a competitive advantage and selling point. Google vs. Yahoo, Lexus vs. BMW, Sony vs. Zenith--these battles can be won and lost based on customer satisfaction.

Just think about the last time you were really disappointed with a product or service. Did you go back to the same company or brand the next time around? Face it, most people would say no.

Satisfaction is something that resonates with both companies and consumers. And this is a lesson project professionals can take hold of.

Initial results from PMI's Researching the Value of Project Management study clearly show consistent processes lead to consistent results and greater satisfaction from everyone involved. That covers everyone from the people in the trenches performing the work every day to the end-users who see the final product.

In light of all the possible rewards companies stand to gain from satisfied customers--repeat business, brand loyalty, even evangelism--who says satisfaction isn't a tangible benefit?

The Benefit of the Intangible

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I have interviewed countless project managers, program managers, team members and executives for PM Network, PMP Passport and other PMI publications and there was often a common theme: Good project management practices equal a single vocabulary, increased transparency, and better teamwork across cultures and time zones. So when the preliminary results of Researching the Value of Project Management were presented a couple of weeks ago at PMI's Research Conference was it really any surprise the sources interviewed said basically the exact same thing? No.

Just because these benefits are often described as "intangible," it doesn't mean they are any less important than "tangible" benefits. In fact, these intangibles are often what make the tangibles--such as on budget and on schedule--possible.

What was surprising, however, was that many companies in the study--probably even ones that have been investing in project management for long periods of time--don't track their ROI. Why not? It's not as if this is some small investment or time commitment. If an organization was investing in the latest piece of technology that promised to save money or reduce the time spent working on a single task wouldn't they track that? Wouldn't they want to know they invested wisely?

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Voices of Project Management is the place for all things project management—covering sustainability, talent management, ROI, programs and portfolios and all points in between. The goal is to spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with, want more information on or even disagree with leave a comment.