“Instead the No. 1 worry among leaders we surveyed is that IT isn’t implementing fast enough to meet business goals. More than one out of five respondents (22%) cite it as a major concern. That tops not having enough IT budget (20%) and not having enough staff (17%). Those three factors were the only ones to register as serious concerns ….” 2011 Global CIO Report, Information Week, March 14, 2011.
I got a call from one of the owners of a business who also held the title of engineering VP. He wanted to talk to me about improving their software development efforts. We sat down with the software manager and the human resources manager to talk about what was needed in software. The software manager said he needed more people, more money and more time ….
Oh boy. This brought to mind a great quote I heard many years ago, that went something like “engineering is doing with $1 what any fool can do with $2.” These three “needs” of people, money and time are the classic requests. Yes, just about anyone can get the job done if they get these in abundance. However, I watched a Fortune 50 company pile on the money and people to get a late running major project to finish on time (obviously, not on budget). The results? Nine months late. So it looks like we must have them all, and not just part of them? Yes, now anyone can be successful!
In every successful project I’ve worked on, we always succeeded with the resources we had. In almost every case our success was centered on making maximum use of available resources with a laser understanding of what we were doing (methodology) and why we were doing it (goals and requirements, etc.). In fact, I have an informal rule that given any organization there is a subset of that organization, about 25%, that can do everything the organization needs to do in order to be successful (completed projects, effective services, etc.). This rule comes out of practical experience in turning around organizations that were regularly failing in delivering their projects on time (budget, functionality, services etc.).
While this 25% rule may seem scary to some folks (“oh no, he’s going to let people go”) it actually doesn’t work that way. Instead, we have about four times the capacity we thought we had and we rarely needed additional resources (though we might swap one resource for another).
I do find the need for more time or as related above “we are not fast enough” to be a consistent critical concern. Too often the request of more time comes in the form of “oops, we are running behind, we need another week” which then becomes another week, and another month and then we have a significant slip in the schedule (and associated costs and quality). Too rarely do I see a concerted request for “more time” at the beginning — in projects that then have significant schedule slips. These compressed schedules are often the result of the “we are not fast enough” mentality where we try to be faster by using a compressed schedule and hoping, this time, we’ll do it. In most cases we fixed missed schedules by using longer schedules up front that resulted in on time project completion that took no longer than previous projects that missed their dates by months (see it is the schedule stupid and in project management 9+3 is not 12).
If we find ourselves asking for the classic “more people, more money, more time” then we probably need to pause and take a good hard look at what we really need in our project. While this request might in fact be dead on, it is also just too easy to think that these will certainly solve our problems. We know from our own practice and from industry experience that they rarely do.
Do you have any good examples of where the solution ended up to be other than the requested additional people, money or time?