Why projects succeed…

All too often we read frightening articles or hear of studies on why projects fail. I thought I’d take a stab at jotting down some thoughts on why projects succeed – based purely on my own experiences with projects that both have failed miserably despite the determined efforts of myself and my teammates as well as those that I would consider a success.

Successful projects claim victory for many varying reason, but a few key common factors (complete list of success factors varies by project) that have been present in the projects I’ve been involved with and consider successful are (in no particular order):

1. Pure team talent
2. Clear team direction
3. Flexible yet predictable environment
4. True senior management support

Pure team talent: There’s nothing I repeat nothing that comes close to influencing any effort (whether you’re repairing the roof, building software, or splitting atoms) more than having the right talent involved. For the most part, the high level of competence at Sun stands second to none. Lucky for me, my current project (Starlight) has an all star line up (tho, it only took my entire 10 year PM career for the stars to align this perfectly).

Clear team direction: I’ve come to realize that the best laid plans (even my prettiest, well thought out roadmap) will change to some degree. It’s a given that the neccesity to alter your course per unexpected, but sensible change is inevitable. This is where having a seasoned navigator comes into play…someone who can drive reasonable and timely decisions in part by effectively weighing the consequences of changing course against the anticipated yet realistic outcome. BTW..in my younger PM years, I use to think I’d let my team/mgt down by asking their opinions at the confusing forks in the road…I’ve come to realize that this is all part of responsible decision making and more importantly that my teammates appreciate contributing decision-influencing points. The other (equally as important) half of clear team direction is (to no surprise) a solid sr. management strategy and clear stakeholder requirements/involvement.

Flexible yet predictable environment: An environment should be solid enough to stand up to the elements, but if it becomes so bullet proof, bureaucratic, and/or unreliable that effectively penetrating it with new releases requires more time and effort than the dev/test cycles, then there’s something really wrong. Time to market is every bit as important as new functionality and “five nines+” (99.999 uptime). What good are the efforts behind building and testing new functionality if you can’t yank it out of the oven when it’s still fresh..and more importantly still critically needed?

True senior management support: Having sr. management buy-in via lip service is one thing, but having management really in the know on your project and really engaged with the project strategy and macro decision making as well as adequate funding and resourcing is a required necessity.

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