When you get a chance read the CIO Insight bullet points from a study on project management 10 truths about project planning which targets specifically the impact of a poor requirements process on project success. What surprises me about the results of this study is that’s it’s been years since the start of the publication of the CHAOS report and it appears that project success rates have not changed much in IT PM since then. My impression years ago was that we would see a dramatic decrease in these type of project failure rates as we became more educated about project management. The huge increases in PMI membership was reassuring, as was the number of books on project management and training that have become available over the years but looks like the results remain the similar.

This begs the question, what are we doing wrong? Is the problem not that the knowledge of how to manage a successful project is not available but are the people that are managing these projects practitioners? A common practice that we have all experienced is the thrusting of the highest man/woman on the totem pole into a project manager role, willingly or not. We talk a lot about the importance of project management to make projects successful but it’s simple to fall into a trap where the project must get done and there is no time to hire/contract/assign a project manager. This is also the case with software requirements, how many projects have you seen where developers have no documented requirements or specifications but are writing code? Unfortunately there are too many instances of this out there , the usual explanation is that the work must get started so we don’t have time to write up formal requirements, we know what we want. These statistics suggest and maybe should provide us some guidance that cutting corners on this critical role and process in the long run is short sighted.

Long term it is encouraging that many companies have implemented PMO’s in their organizations and over time this will improve success rates as more and more projects come under the umbrella of a PMO. On the other hand although I have seen a lot of work on requirements gathering I think we still have a ways to go in making formal requirements processes a part of every software development project.

As a project manager do you track your success rate? Does your company have a stated formal requirements process? Certainly some of you do and are probably quite successful but In the meantime looks like when it comes to failure rates, not much has changed.


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