The large IT and business service providers are in fierce competition with each other; and if they are not the Competition and Markets Authority might become quite cross. One consequence is the construction of walls of secrecy around their work practices in the name of competitive edge. While understandable, this can be frustrating for the BCS Project Management Specialist Group which is all about creating a space for the free exchange of ideas and upping the game of IT programme and project man

So PwC Director Robin Foote and Senior Technical Manager Matt Hunt came up trumps for PROMSG last Wednesday (12th November) by providing an insight into PwC’s approach to helping clients avoid IT project failures. The presentation will surely have done PwC a world of good by impressing everyone with their excellence, and Project Eye looks forward to a frenzied scramble by their competitors to let the world know about their virtues at PROMSG events. You know where we are.

Project Eye has banged on in the past about the lack of a sound evidence base for many pronouncements on project management. Well, PwC built their presentation around 3,000 questionnaire responses from top project and programme management practitioners. Some of the findings we had always suspected, but were nice to have confirmed. For instance, while meeting cost and deadlines are important, generating business benefits and achieving client customer satisfaction were crucial if projects were to be regarded as successes. When asked why projects had been aborted, only eight per cent mentioned cost overrun.

It’s when you are surprised by something that you know that you are learning something - or are being reminded of something you should not have forgotten. One overhead showed the recommended PwC approach to project development. Most textbook descriptions begin with the business case being established before any serious development work is done. The PwC model had a wide range of analysis and design processes relating to things like the target architecture, delivery methods, procurement strategy and business requirements before the business case was produced. Thinking about this it is obvious that you cannot come up with the serious estimates of cost and time needed for a business case without having spent a lot of time and money working out what has to be done.

Another key success factor was a deep-seated need for client engagement. Some organisations seem to be too busy to devote time to successful projects.

The scary thing is that many of the things contributing to project success - in its broadest sense - may be outside the control of the humble project manager.