Software as a process

Barely half of all large organisations have mastered delivering software projects on time and on budget, according to the latest Information Age research. A survey of over 750 IT executives in software delivery management, sponsored by Borland, found stark divides in how corporate IT is governed, with large numbers of organisations failing to take best-practise steps to ensure IT is delivered smoothly and efficiently.

While 39% of respondents thought their organisation’s track record on delivering software on time, on budget and to business requirements was ‘good’, almost the same number thought they were merely ‘adequate’.

Furthermore, the 13% who reported their record as being ‘excellent’ only outnumber by 1% those who thought it was ‘poor’. Evidently, while a slight majority are delivering software as they should be, a sizeable minority felt that still had work to do.

Since not all project ideas can become reality, companies have a vetting process. But even this crucial first stage is poorly controlled. Just over half – 51% – of respondents said they had a structured and well-understood request process for new development. A further 40% reported that while users knew who was responsible for making and processing requests, there was no centralised means of tracking them.

When it comes to prioritising those requests, 45% of organisations put proposals in front of some sort of centralised IT governance group to assess the value to the business. But a large minority, 28%, prioritised projects simply on a first come, first served basis.

While a third of respondents preferred to examine each proposal on an individual basis, 36% said that projects were selected in the context of their organisation’s complete portfolio and how they would impact related projects. However, this relativist approach is not carried through to the end of the project. Only 5% quantify the success of their projects against the impact of others in their organisation’s portfolio. More popular is to judge projects against how well they meet their own specific requirements.

Building on success

A fundamental factor in any project’s success lies in the skill and organisation of the people driving it. Commenting on the commitment of their businesses to build and invest in skills within project teams, 21% of respondents thought they were ‘somewhat committed’, adding there would be workshops and knowledge-sharing within teams, but often of a topical and ad-hoc nature, while 14% considered themselves ‘committed’, providing good opportunities for their employees to improve.

However, just 14% of those who answered the survey reported that the stakeholders of a project met frequently, were able to monitor it and had the facility to view the whole project if so desired. More common, with 53%, was to have project teams who would report back to and meet with the sponsors and users at regular intervals to demonstrate the project’s progress.

Along with a collaborative and skilled workforce, project portfolio management (PPM) tools can increase visibility across the project, but less than a fifth use a comprehensive PPM product. Instead, manual methods such as Gantt charts and spreadsheets are still heavily used by 31% to manage software delivery. Most popular is a compromise between a fully-fledged PPM tool and several manual products. These non-integrated project management tools tend to be used for resources allocation and time management.

Evidently, many organisations are still not able to centrally manage and resource a project and judge its impact in a transparent way against the whole portfolio. Resources are committed to projects according to informal agreements between managers in 38% of companies, while only a third have a team that reviews the needs of all corporate-wide projects  and allocates resources accordingly.

Despite the resources, time and planning invested in projects, 15% of companies barely track the success, only measuring against schedule and budget. More promisingly, half thought they were ‘effective’ or ‘very effective’ in tracking the success, impact, and need for improvements and reporting on it to stakeholders.




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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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