The Anchorage payroll project, now in its seventh year and with costs ballooning from a projected $10 million to over $80 million provides a solid example of how to guarantee an enterprise project failure.
As Samuel Beckett wrote, in Worstward Ho:
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
Acknowledging the fact that we surely don’t really want our project to fail, what does failing better actually mean?
It’s surely about openness – in other words, admitting that things didn’t go to plan, and having a frank discussion about what went wrong – so that everyone can learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Often projects that don’t quite succeed are brushed under the carpet and never mentioned again, or worse, spun to pretend that everything was hunky dory.
Here’s a lovely example of openness around failure from Chris Poole, the legendary moot of 4chan fame, discussing what went wrong with his company that made the Drawquest app:
With that said, life goes on, and the best path forward is not a wounded one, but a more learned and motivated one. I’m definitely not itching to start another company any time soon—it will take time to decompress and reflect on the events of the past four years—but I hope that if I do some day decide to pursue a new dream, I’ll be in a much better position to. After all, I did just receive a highly selective, four-year education for a mere $3.6 million dollars! (I find humor helps as well.)
So when reviewing a project which perhaps didn’t turn out as expected, rather than covering things up, or apportioning blame, try to fail a bit better. Identity what went wrong, and how it could have been avoided – and tell people about it.
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
- comment.ofqual.gov.uk – Lovely commentable document style consultations from Ofqual
- MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy – Institute for Government – "Influencing behaviour through public policy explores how behaviour change theory can help meet current policy challenges, such as how to reduce crime, tackle obesity, or ensure environmental sustainability."
- How Not to Run an IT Project: A Case Study – Well worth a read.
- Open Election Data project – "A new project to help local government open up their election results"
- MIT TechTV – The Future of Government/Citizen Engagement – "From the Mayor of Newark's tweets to the President's online town halls, technology has already changed how the public engages with their government. In a world of ubiquitous broadband, this interaction can radically change how government operates and develops policy. This panel will explore how broadband can transform government/citizen engagement."
- 10 Search Engines to Explore the Deep End of the Invisible Web – I'm not sure how useful this actually is, but it's kinda interesting.
- Local by Social – "This document outlines how local authorities can use social media to achieve more for less. It also highlights the risk to councils if they ignore the technological advances of social media and the people using them."
- Socialtext: The 5 Most Critical Requirements for Enterprise Social Software – "How do you choose the Enterprise Social Software solution that will produce the greatest benefits for your company? In this white paper, we will show you the five most critical requirements for success."
- Carnegie UK Trust – Democracy & Civil Society – Making good society – "Making good society, the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society, argues that civil society has been pushed to the margins in key areas including politics, finance and the media and that this must change."
- Case studies of corporate (social) learning – Great list of examples
You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.
You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.
Michael Krigsman’s blog, IT Project Failures, is well worth subscribing to.
He recently shared a really interesting slidedeck on how projects can go wrong, and how it can be avoided: