Project Success or Armageddon


Ok we all know about KPIs, LTIs, positive/negative cashflows, WIP, cost reports etc etc. We have dashboards on our laptops spitting out critical data regarding our performance, document management software etc etc. But if you break it right down, what makes a project so bad that the PM pulls the pin before PC.

Consider three simple points

  • the project team
  • the client
  • the budget

My theory is if you can tick all three as acceptable or above, life is great, the project runs safely and financial well, the client is happy for us to build for him again, we all stay until the end and then we spruke about it on our resumes. Of course during the project life these three point can get better or worse but consider them as an average. If we can tick two then life is hard, there may be a reasonable client, but the job is under priced but at least the team gets along and we put it down to experience. If we can only tick one box things are getting serious. Bad client, crappy budget, but the team still gets along, and when we look back a year after PC we only remember the good laughs as we will all probably working for someone else. The worst case, no boxes ticked I shall leave to the end of this missive.

Now say the team is not great, there are some weak links, or in the worst case scenario, the PM has not picked the team, they have been chosen from on high and maybe the leftovers from other projects. Just names to fill in the organisation chart, keep the client happy and you get what you are given.

Now the client. We all have stories about difficult clients. My worst stories are not about clients but the ubiquitous client representatives. Over the last twenty years a whole industry has developed in companies engaged by clients supposedly to look after the client’s best interest, when in fact the only interest satisfied is the representative’s. They have to prove they are necessary so they crucify builders in every which way.

The final one of the trinity is the budget. How many times have you heard PMs say “which bloody lunatic priced this” or a more recent one I heard was “that estimator knows as much about construction as a horse does about astronomy”

Now what happens when none of the three boxes can be ticked. The team is not yours, they have not interacted well, some have left and more hand me downs are parachuted in, the client (more usually his representatives) is impossible and the budget bears no semblance of reality, now we are in trouble. As the great man said “Forget Armageddon, you are in hell already”

Can someone book that one way ticket – please.

The NFN – National Fax Network

Image via Wikipedia

The fax machine is almost a piece of history, like all office technologies it became ubiquitous, reached it zenith in the late nineties and has now become amalgamated in semi trailer cab size photocopiers.

Interestingly faxes were around before telephones but this is not a history lesson. It is a post about the redundancy of technology and a what if question.

What if Ms Gillard had been around in the late eighties, the time when I the company I had started out with installed their first fax machine. It was 1988 and the typists had gone to be replaced by Word Perfect and so had the comptometer people as we were now using Lotus 123 (backslash, w,c enter etc). Ms Gillard could have given every pensioner a fax machine and rolled out fax lines to everyone. We all would have been able to send letters to each other instantly, had built in answer phones, and our very own photocopier.

But it was not all sweetness and light. Some of still remember the panic of the early nineties when we realized the fax thermal image paper was fading, quick invent cheap laser fax machines. And there was the argument about the legality of faxes in contracts etc. But we did not know any better as we were at the cutting edge of technology or so we thought.

But if she had done the rollout it would have been an obvious mistake, email killed off letters and pdfs/scanning killed off fax machines.

Only a couple of months ago a very bright 22 year old commenced work with me. For some vague reason he had to fax a document to someone whose pc was down. The young bright spark had never used a fax and thought that nobody had them assuming everyone was like him on twitter, facebook, with ipad and iphone.

So the question is will the NBN which will take 9.5 years (their numbers not mine) assuming no delays, be redundant when it is fully rolled out. If it was such a good idea where is Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Bill Gate? They are not interested, mind you they were not interested in pink bats and solar panels.