Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Managing large IT projects - What would Drucker do?

According to the Standish Group’s CHAOS Report on Project Success Rates, "84% of projects fail or are significantly challenged." The challenge from my perspective is that most large IT projects that fail are involved in major business transformation and don't fail due to IT alone.

Major business transformation is often treated as an IT initiative and ignores the complex organizational change management challenge.

If one brings this up with a Business Architecture guru, it likely this type of statistic will be firmly attributed to a lack of proper use of the The TOGAF framework.

I'm not convinced. It's true that project completion rates have improved since business architecture techniques spread after the .com bust. However, correlation does not imply causation.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say I think it could be that more people are reading Drucker. Here's his take on planning:

A plan can usually cover no more than 18 months and still be reasonably clear and specific. So the question in most cases should be, Where and how can I achieve results that will make a difference within the next year and a half? The answer must balance several things. First, the results should be hard to achieve--they should require "stretching," to use the current buzzword. But also, they should be within reach. To aim at results that cannot be achieved--or that can be only under the most unlikely circumstances--is not being ambitious, it is being foolish. Second, the results should be meaningful. They should make a difference. Finally, results should be visible and, if at all possible, measurable. From this will come a course of action: what to do, where and how to start, and what goals and deadlines to set.

I don't want to minimize the work that business architects do - Most of their work is relevant and indispensable. Grouping of business functions and related business objects into clusters is a great way of managing complexity. However, I think there's a risk of people using flavour of the month methodologies instead of proven ideas like those from Drucker.


  1. Business Architecture is just another cottage industry to keep consultants employed.

  2. TOGAF isn't as bad as it sounds - It baffles me that some people call themselves business architects and ignore what it teaches. It's proven to help transformational changes succeed.

  3. The best way to predict the future is to create it.
    Peter Drucker

  4. MBO -

    Management by Objectives (MBO) is a process of agreeing upon objectives within an organization so that management and employees agree to the objectives and understand what they are in the organization.

    The term "management by objectives" was first popularized by Peter Drucker in his 1954 book 'The Practice of Management'.

  5. MBO introduced the SMART criteria: Objectives for MBO must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Specific).