Thursday, January 5, 2012

Use Stage Gates to Manage Project Progress

Reading a map is a lost art I suppose, but whether you're used to MapQuest, Google, Garmin, TomTom, or plain old Rand McNally, one thing is for certain. Most people consult their maps multiple times en-route to a new destination.

If you've gone astray, you figure out how to get back on path. If you've strayed too far, you might even decide to scrap the trip, start over, or select a new destination. In the vernacular of Architecture, this is called stage gate risk mitigation.

Here's some delightful industry news, the 2009 version of the Standish Chaos report indicates that only 32% of I.T. projects are delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions. 24% of all I.T. projects fail, i.e. are cancelled prior to completion and never used.

We should probably stop denigrating weather forecasters.

One of my older sisters is very bright, being the only doctor in the family, she has had to demonstrate her brain power to excel in her chosen field. But give her a map to read and she becomes the driving combination of Helen Keller and Dick Van Dyke. Simple things like, "Sis, start with placing the map in front of you with the north end of the map towards the top." "But, " she says, "what if I'm not going north." "If I turn the map as I'm driving, doesn't that send me in the wrong direction?"

"Why yes Sis, If you turn the map, the whole globe shifts." /s

An organization that identifies itself as a leader in managing risk, should approach I.T. projects with a stage gate philosophy. Approvals to move forward should never be a binary manager-take-all go/no-go decision. Rather, approvals should be based upon current state, predictability of the next steps, and a continued re-examination of return on investment.

A stage gate approach provides for a natural re-evaluation of the architecture of the system. If we rely on common sense, intuition, education, and best practices when taking a road trip, then we should adopt as Standard Operating Practice the process of stage gating our I.T. projects.

The Architecture Review process should use a stage-gate approach to ensure that technology directions are sound, and that they stay sound as projects unfold. There’s nothing wrong with changing directions (detours happen!), but deviations from the plan should make just as much sense as the original plan.

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