On Project Success Factors – Heading straight towards the goal II

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“To follow, without halt, one aim: There’s the secret of success.” (Anna Pavlova, a famous ballerina). To repeat the quote from my last blog.
The goal must be worth it, of course. What are the benefits, what are the costs. Right…the Business Case. For this you should not hesitate to thing big and look far. The worst thing would be if your Business Case is invalidated in a year.

The first project I managed (from bid to production) was a substantial redesign and refactoring of an existing administrative system for a directorate of a ministry. We won the project, because (as I learned later) we had bid substantially lower than our competitor. They had built the initial system. During the project I soon found out why we had bid lower: I had omitted half the essential work from my estimates. In my defence I must say that this essential work was specified nowhere and could only be fathomed if…you had built the original system!

What also became apparant at the start of the project was that new requirements were emerging from National and European legislation. These requirements were at odds with the system structure: it would be cheaper to do a complete redesign and build a new system from scratch. The client did not want to hear this advice: he had just started this project, with the current business case and these new requirements were going to be the next project.

During the project I reminded the client twice of the folly of their ways: the timelines lenghtened (as usually happens in projects) and the new requirements got more and more urgent. Eventually the client listened. When the refactoring was complete and the six external contractors were ready to start the acceptance test they killed the project. A very late and very courageous decision. We got the contract for the new project by the way. The new system still functions smoothly and on the whole it was indeed a lot cheaper!

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