Major projects are usually
complex, multi-year endeavours worth millions of dollars and range in
type from those related to information technology to construction. They
are also temporary endeavors common to all organizational environments.
Projects have specific objective(s), defined start and end dates,
consume monetary, human and other resources, and create client-specific
products or services. Even though projects are common and ubiquitous in
most organizations and project management is a fairly well understood
discipline, most major projects routinely fail either partially or
completely. More specifically, projects succeed or fail based upon
whether they are delivered on time, within budget, based upon original
scope, and whether there are functional or technical defects or major
issues that impede their successful completion.
Project failure costs billions
of private and public sector resources each year around the world. The
benchmark failure rate for major projects is 80 to 90 percent.1
This article addresses the
development and implementation of a new approach to major project
management and measurement that is designed to radically improve the
probability of success. The management approach is based on the dynamic
baseline model (DBM)2 while the approach to measurement
is based upon the excellence driven approach (EDA).3 Together, these two
methods provide an integrated and comprehensive way to both manage and
measure major projects.
The dynamic baseline model
Under the current paradigm,
there is a tendency to turn to standard project management practices as
the “one-size-fits-all” solution regardless of whether a product is
being assembled, a building constructed, an IT system developed or a
business transformed. Notwithstanding the diligent application of
classical project management rules and methods, today’s environment of
fast paced change often precludes the use of this stable and sequential
Through the DBM concept, it is
suggested that not all projects are created equal and that tailoring
the project management response to the complexity of a given project
scenario is key. Projects can be logically and simply grouped into one
of five discrete levels of complexity using the dynamic baseline model.
This categorization can help determine whether to proceed with a
project, how best to proceed, and where to focus management attention
for optimal performance.
The initial project assessment places the project in the appropriate project management level. A
diagnostic is conducted through interviews with project representatives
to characterize the impact of the project concept on its surrounding
organizational environment and the state of technological maturity.
This establishes the basis for complexity classification, solution
tailoring and the appropriate measurement approach. Initial assessment categorizes a project in one of five levels:
1 The 1995 Chaos Study of 365 IT executives representing 8,380 projects across a broad spectrum by the Standish Group and the KPMG Canada IT Project Management Survey (1997) of 1450 public and private sector organizations.
2 M. A. Seely, Q. P. Duong, “The Dynamic Base Line Model for Project Management” Project Management Journal, June 2001.
3 B. Shane and P. Lafferty, “The Excellence Driven Approach to Major Project Measurement’, Optimumonline, Spring 2005.