ISO 21502:2020 launched – update to The Project Workout

The latest international standard on project management, ISO 21502:2020, was launched at the end of December, four months ahead of schedule. Who would expect anything less for a project management standard! I was pleased to be a member of TC 258, Working Group 9, which created this new standard. ISO 21502 is a significant progression from ISO 21500:20102 which it supersedes. The new standard covers, not just the ‘project manager’ role but all those other roles needed to ensure a project succeeds, including the sponsoring organization, project sponsor, work package leader and others. It written in a narrative style enabling you to design your own compliant processes and includes new practices including the management of business and societal change and issues management as well as making a distinction between ‘reporting’ and ‘communications’. If you’ve read The Project Workout, you’ll know what I mean!

However, the launching of this new standard means that Appendix C1 of The Project Workout needs an update, which is inevitable when referring to ‘live’ external documents. I have therefore released this update as an article, ‘An overview of the current standards‘.  Even if you haven’t got The Project Workout, you should find this article of interest as it compares the new ISO 21502 with its predecessor, ISO 21500:2012, BS6079:2019 and the UK government’s project delivery standard, GovS002 . . . . all of which I was involved in!

The Workout Companion Site

Nowadays, processes and methods are becoming a way of life in many organizations, particularly those moving up the maturity level and adopting models such as SEI’s CMMI for Development. This companion site is based on the Workout books and uses BusinessOptix as its platform. If you have copies of the Workout books this interactive site points you at the chapters and workouts relevant to the part of the method you are looking at. If you don’t have the books yet, this site still provides you with a simplified example portfolio, programme and project management method website, with lots of usable information.


BusinessOptix is designed for ‘corporates’, and needs to know who you are in order to display the right content. Click on the cartoon to get to the BusinessOptix screen; then at bottom choose ‘Register’, enter your email address and you should receive your username and password in separate emails. You’ll be asked to change your password. Notifications are turned off by default. There is a video, below, to give you a preview of what to expect.

To access Companion site’s login and registration page:

On the right track yet?

I wrote an article in 2015 in which I talked about the eternal causes of project failure (do I hear your groan!) and related them to how we could improve project delivery for infrastructure. I read it again this week and thought that some things in the world of project management don’t seem to change and the integration of ‘project management’ and each of the engineering disciplines is a case in point. Or have I got that wrong? I have updated the article very slightly as some words are in vogue, like ‘digital’ instead of ‘IT’, but essentially it is the same as 5 years ago.

Have a read of the article and share your experience is: On the right track

Getting the team to work as one can be a challenge . . .

The Programme and Portfolio Workout is launched

PP workout 1e pngThe Programme and Portfolio Workout has been launched. Together with its companion, The Project Workout, this book aims to help you run your organization in a structured, yet agile way so you can meet your strategic goals and make sure all parts of your organization are aligned.

I have made three short videos introducing the books:

  1. The first video shows how these books have grown out of the original ‘Project Workout’, first published in 1997 and how they now give you the knowledge and thinking to make your organization succeed.
  2. The second video describes The Project Workout and how you can direct and manage one project at a time.
  3. The third video describes The Programme and Portfolio Workout, and how you can direct the tens, hundreds or even thousands of piece of work in your organization.

You can see these videos on Robert’s web site

Top down failure and other things . . .

I was recently interviewed by journalist, Yu Yanjuan, Project Management Review: PMR (China) and International Correspondent, PM World Journal.Caesars vision in Gaul

In this interview, titled “Project failure is top down”, Robert describes how he started working in project management,  where his books originated from and what influenced them. He then goes on to discuss failure (and success!), the importance of excellent sponsorship, the balance between people and process and about his work with the UK government on their project delivery functional standard.  It also includes a few new cartoons!

 

Read the full interview 

A really expensive experiment

I was speaking at a PMI conference in Sweden and took the opportunity to listen to some of the other speakers, one of whom was Henrik Kniberg. Henrik is a guru on agile and lean and he told the story of a rather large public sector project in Sweden. The inadvertent experiment was that they did the same project TWICE!
To start with, Henrik discussed what “success” is and he defined it as being happy customers, happy users and happy development team. With apologies to PMI’s “triple constraint” he said to forget about time, cost and scope . . . actually this bit of the talk mirrored the start of my own talk at that conference, so “Mr Classic PM” and “Mr Agile” are on the same page. Why you undertake work is more important than what or how you deliver.

Henrik's different perspectives on success, over and above the "triple constraint". This thinking matches my thinking in Project Workout.

Henrik’s different perspectives on success, over and above the “triple constraint”. This thinking matches my thinking in Project Workout.

Henrik’s case study was all about improving society by helping the Swedish police force work more effectively. You’ve all read those dark, gloomy Scandinavian crime thrillers, so you get the idea. As we were in Sweden in “Wallender” country, it all seemed appropriate.
So, the first project was like this:

  • Mission Improve society
  • Requirements Unclear
  • Delivery Agile (= Iterative/incremental)
  • User involvement Continuous
  • Team’s influence over technology choices High
  • Technical platform Java

It took two years and comprised a series of releases, starting with the first one after 6 months, which the police hated, then after 18 months a nation-wide release and ending up with something they all really liked. SUCCESS!

Then “someone” had a bright idea to rebuild the whole thing in Oracle Siebel as Oracle said it would be better and cheaper. And as they were in a hurry to save money, they would go “big bang”. After all, they knew the requirements as the project had already been completed. So this is project 2:

  • Mission Reduce maintenance cost
  • Requirements Clear
  • Delivery Big bang
  • User involvement None
  • Team’s influence over technology None
  • Technical platform Oracle Siebel

This turned out to be a train wreck in slow motion:

Stakeholder response: outrage
Cost 200m KR (double that of project 1)
Time 24 months (as opposed to 18 months for project 1
Measured impact: Police blocked from using it several hours a day; error rate increased.

Lesson to be learned

So, the lessons are:

  • Focus on solving user needs not just cost: effective nearly always out-strips efficient;
  • Deliver iteratively and incrementally if you don’t know what you really need;
  • Involve real users.

Beware of standard platforms:

  • They might not be as standard as you think;
  • Listen to your technical people not just to a vendor selling stuff.

How many of you are building major capabilities on the promise of using a “standard” platform? I can certainly think of one I was involved with recently!

How do you think the re-platforming should be handled? . . or even should it be done at all, if what is there isn’t broken?

What about migrating from one to the other? Should we always design this in from the start? Or is it like turkeys voting for Christmas?

So agile is always better, is it?

Oh, and the stuff about ‘agile’ and ‘big bang’? That is just a red herring. You should use whatever delivery approaches are appropriate and proportionate to what you are doing. I expect some people reading this have had senior executives issue an edict: “do all projects agile!” This approach is just as mistaken as not trying agile at all – it underlines the classic IT confusion between a development approach and a project method. It’s not a case of ‘agile’ versus ‘project management’. Nor of thinking ‘waterfall = project management’. ‘Agile’ and ‘waterfall’ are delivery methods. Project management is a wrapper, which can contain any number of delivery methods, depending on the type of deliverables being produced.

The 5th edition of The Project Workout is now available

I am delighted to tell you the 5th edition of The Project Workout has been published by Routledge.

The world of project management has moved on a lot since the 1st edition was published by Pearson in 1997, not least a growing consensus on what a ‘programme’ and a ‘portfolio is. I have therefore updated the terminology to reflect this. I also found that the book was getting rather large and so decided to split it into two volumes, aimed at two different, but related, readers:

  • The Project Workout, aimed at project sponsors, managers and their teams.
  • The Programme and Portfolio Workout, aimed at business leaders and, programme and portfolio directors and managers.

The revised edition of The Project Workout maintains its ‘business-led’ approach and contains a wealth of new material on governance, monitoring and control, resource and information management and working with standards, such as ISO 21500, BS6079, PRINCE2®, APM Body of Knowledge and PMBOK® Guide.

Its companion, The Programme and Portfolio Workout, is due out in 2019. It draws on the same principles and approaches as The Project Workout, but looks at them from the viewpoint of senior executives who have either a programme to manage or an organization with many programmes, projects and other work going on, all competing for scarce resources and funding.

Together these books will give you what you need to ensure all your projects succeed.

As they say, available in paperback, hardback and eBook from the publisher, Routledge, as well as Amazon, Blackwell’s, Waterstones and all good book shops!

Audits and assurance. What’s the difference?

What is the difference between an “audit” and “assurance?

I was recently asked, “What is the difference between an “audit” and “assurance”? I like simple questions like this as they can tease out a lot of hidden meanings and misunderstandings. These two words are used frequently and in many different contexts; most of the time people understand what is meant . . . but not always. It is only when the question is asked, that you have to put your brain in gear and start thinking.5-going-ok

As project management has grown as a discipline, a lot of organizations have come up with their own definitions or uses of these words, which were already in use in other disciplines. The terms are often qualified such as:

  • Business assurance – checking the project is viable in business terms
  • Technical assurance – checking the solution is the right on and will work
  • User assurance – checking users get what they need.
  • Quality assurance – ensuring standards and procedures are used
  • Configuration audit – keeping track on all the bits of the solution
  • Financial audit – checking the financial figures reflect reality

You also find the word “review” is often tacked on to “assurance”, hence “assurance reviews”, which can add whole new dimension.

What do the words mean?

It is always a good idea to use words which have a commonly understood meaning, as it makes communication and understanding so much easier. Most people don’t have the time or inclination to understand jargon and nuances which are used to make academic distinctions. Dictionaries are the guardians for this and so, do use them; here are some dictionary definitions of the words:

  • Audit: 1) an official examination of accounts 2) A systematic review or assessment of something.
  • Review: a formal assessment of something with the intention of instituting change if necessary
  • Assurance: positive declaration that a thing is true.

“Audit”, being associated with financial accounts and independent auditors, has an “official” connotation; audits are usually planned, formally undertaken events. In the case of financial audits there are very strict rules on how they are conducted. People are often very wary when told the auditors want to see them; they often think in terms of “passing an audit”. Personally, I have found in healthy companies people welcome audits as it gives them a chance to raise issues which they have found intractable.

“Review”, on the other hand can have a softer meaning, more “helpful” meaning and can imply less formality, although this is not always the case. PMOs often use “review” so as not to scare people! This is how accountants use the terms:

  • Audit — an intensive examination with the highest level of assurance.
  • Review — some analytical procedures conducted with limited assurance

“Assurance” is different, you can have an “audit” or a “review” but you do not have “an assurance”. It is more of a state; you are assured that your project will meet its business objectives. Audits and reviews are simply two forms of assurance related activity.

Where does risk fit into this?

The terms “risk” and “audit” are often linked; Risk based internal audit (RBIA) is an internal method which is primarily focused on the inherent risk involved in the activities or system and provides assurance that risk is being managed, by the management team, within the defined risk appetite level. It has had a very high profile since the collapse of companies like Enron and the introduction of Sarbanes Oxley in the USA. In this connection, you’ll probably come across what is often termed “three lines of defence”:

  • 1st line: business operations, who own and manage risks; risk and control in the business, ensuring the identification and treatment of risk is built into standard management practices.
  • 2nd line: oversight functions, who design policies, set direction, introduce best practice and ensure compliance to ensure the whole management effort works as an integrated whole.
  • 3rd line: independent assurance providers such as internal audit and external assurance providers.

So what can you do in practice?

So what does this all mean for you in a programme and project management context? As always, it depends. You are likely to have this problem if you are responsible for a company-wide programme and project method or if you are responsible for a major programme. If you are a programme o project sponsor then “assurance” is a key aspect of your role. You will be the one asking for audits and reviews . . . although your senior management may also call for them.

In a company context, check how the terms are already used; make contact with the internal audit department and the risk group and work with them. In a programme context, decide how much you want the programme to be driving audits and reviews and how much should be driven externally, always remembering that at a programme level, you’ll need to fill any gaps in corporate capabilities. If there is no corporate audit or review capabilities, the programme team will have to design everything, except the 3rd line of defence assurance, themselves.

 

Case study

Here is how I approached it in one major company:

The programme and project management method included roles definitions which included assurance and risk management accountabilities. There were three supporting procedures relating to these:

  1. a single risk management procedure for use at any level in the programme from work package upwards.
  2. A procedure for auditing a programme or project;
  3. A procedure for reviewing a programme or project;

The programme and project management risk procedure dovetailed into the corporate risk management process, using the same terms and activities (based on ISO 31000). This ensured ease of transfer of risks across boundaries and simpler tools support.

The audit procedure was based on group internal audit’s formal auditing process. This was only used on major programmes which had their own quality and assurance departments. By mirroring group internal audit’s approach we ensured that the method could not be challenged, ensuring that the findings and recommendations were the focus.

The review process was designed to be used by programme and project management practitioners, not directly involved in the work, to review the work of others, based on a brief given by the sponsor. It was simpler and quicker than an audit as it took a less formal approach and was supported by (but not limited to) check-lists and tools.

Why bother with processes?

I expect many of you, on hearing the word “process” may have some bad feelings based on your experience. Perhaps there was gower-prgmngta critical point in your programme and you were side-tracked by someone telling you that you hadn’t gone through the seemingly trivial, but lengthy, check list on page 42 or perhaps the processes you had to use didn’t really help you and any feedback you gave just went into a “black-hole”.  That’s all very legitimate and this is indicative of “bad” processes.

This year Gower launched their 2nd edition of the Handbook of Programme Management and I was asked to write the chapter on processes. Good processes are key to increasing organizational maturity and hence business performance.  They are also essential if we are to manage through the increasing levels of complexity which face us; have a look at my two minute video  on why processes are becoming more important and  why we can’t ignore them.

 

Project gating? CFOs at Shell and Coca Cola really believe in it.

Shell CFO calls for open-minded approach to innovation – says the headline.
I was sent the article at the foot of this blog; it comes from Accountancy Age, Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 and shows that effective project management and accountancy are intertwined; you can’t have effective projects without having the financial systems to track them and you can’t honestly say you are in control of your business if you don’t have effective project accounting.

A good matrix accounting systems will ensure you understand the real business

A good matrix accounting systems will ensure you understand the real business

In the article, the CFOs of both Coca Cola and Shell praise the virtues of a gated approach to projects, where we see the whole project but give authorisation a stage at a time (depending on risk). These CFOs see gates as vital control points, being the decision point on whether to continue and terminate a project. It’s all about sensible business investment. Gates serve as points to:

  • Check the business case
  • Check the merits of the project against other work that could be done
  • Check we have the resources both to undertake the project and operate the outcome
  • Check the plan for the remainder of the work is achievable
  • And finally, provide the funding for the next chunk.

They are the BIG decision points and should not to be confused with what are often called “quality gates”, which look at, quality (believe it or not!). Like many terms in business, “gate” can be over-used and abused.

Properly applied, project gating can radically change business performance. I saw one case where product development output went up ten-fold due to effective gating, rather than the “shove it all in the hopper” approach. Time to market was also reduced dramatically.

To get this right, organisations need effective “project portfolio management”, where the project portfolio is effectively part of the business plan. This is where the business needs originate. If portfolio management is to work effectively, we need to be good at programme and project management as whilst the demands for projects come from the “portfolio”, the feedback on achieving the portfolio’s objectives depends on how well the projects are undertaken.

I was at the London Gartner Forum last year and the vital linkage of business strategy to portfolio to project kept coming out in the talks. Gating was seen as essential for this.

So what could this mean for your organisation?

Projects are the vehicles for change and making the business of tomorrow. A good strategy or business plan, without “good execution” is worth nothing. Programme, project and change management are vital disciplines in making it happen.

Programme and project performance can only improve so far through the efforts of project managers. It is only through effective portfolio management we can hope to improve further by making sure our projects really do meet the business need and ensure we stop authorising projects which we haven’t the resources to do – that just slows down everything and stresses our people.

If benefits result from projects, then it makes sense that funding goes to the projects and NOT to the departments who spend the money. . . and definitely not on an annual basis (unless you business is so old fashioned as to be based on the Venetian traders’ model). If you give any department money they will spend it, regardless, so really on cost centre budget control will prove disappointing!

If you are to give money to projects you need good project accounting capabilities which work on the “matrix” and not just down the silos.

The great thing is that companies like Coca Cola and Shell recognise this; the sad thing is that the state of corporate management is that such an approach is news worthy and that so many organisations are still tied to cost centre accounting and ad-hoc spreadsheet driven project “accounts” (if any). What sort of company are you in?

Learn more about this
To learn more about gates, see Part 2 of The Project Workout and Chapter 8 of the Programme and Portfolio Workout.
To learn more about effective project accounting, see Chapter 28 of the Programme and Portfolio Workout.

Here is the article:
QUOTE: MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTANTS must be less “mechanistic” and take a more open-minded approach to innovation, according to the chief financial officer of Royal Dutch Shell. Writing in a report by CIMA and the AICPA on innovation in the finance function, Simon Henry, CFO of oil and gas giant Shell, has urged finance functions to play a greater role in driving company innovation.
Shell has an innovation programme that includes a $1.5bn (GBP 1bn) annual R&D budget and also invests around $4bn on innovation within the business. According to Henry, the role of finance within this is multifaceted.
“A finance function needs to be able to understand the business well enough to know what is a worthwhile activity, but also, in this part of the business, to have a bit more of an open mind. It is less mechanistic, and has the ability to live with ambiguity, to identify risk and to manage it,” Henry said.
“The business is all about proper evaluation of risk, whether it’s technological, market or otherwise. We want to encourage innovation and not stifle it, but not in a totally uncontrolled way.”
Describing Shell’s approach, Henry said the company has a ten stage “gate process” to provide funding for innovative projects.
“At each stage gate you can say, this is going to be funded by Shell through to the next four stage gates, at which point we’ll take another decision. Or we put it into a joint venture and we keep an equity stake. So there are different routes to commercialisation,” he said.
Similarly, Coca-Cola has adopted its own stage gate process to control how an idea gets prioritised and funded,
“We want to see the whole project and we want to budget for it, but those funds are not given at one go up front. Each stage has budgets allocated to it, and targets and metrics. If you get to the first gate and if you’re on track, you pass through that gate and get the funding for the next phase. And if you get through to launch, we can spend many, many millions of dollars,” said Doug Bonthrone, director of global services strategy at The Coca-Cola Company.
UNQUOTE