Researching the Value of Project Management

On Tuesday I attended the monthly dinner meeting of Portland Chapter of the Project Management Institute, where Dr. Janice Thomas presented some results of her three year study that PMI will sell this year in a paper called Research on the Value of Project Management. The research team studied over 60 organizations over a year and a half in a variety of industries. They gained access to senior managers and detailed project records in order to corroborate interview statements with actual findings.

I initially skeptical of the research. Imagine this: research sponsored by the Project Management Institute finds that organizations always find value in Project Management. The research sponsor proclaims “I can definitively say that project management will bring value to companies”. However, the presentation by Dr. Janice Thomas showed she was very intelligent and thoughtful, and she was aware of the implicit biases.

Some interesting observations:

  1. Companies who focus on project management to control costs find a strong correlation with customer satisfaction, and that correlation is negative.
  2. No company in the sample could deliver ROI numbers for their project management programs. In other words, there was no ROI for calculating ROI.
  3. Companies who benefit from project management cannot simply make a one-time investment and then let it go. They must continually adjust, improve, and invest in the project management program for it to continue to succeed.

The full research paper will be available at PMI.org for $50 for non-members and $40 for members.

Numara Software Introduces FootPrints 9

Last week Numara Software announced the new version of FootPrints. Cutting through the marketing hype, the new version of the product consists mostly of minor refinements and enhancements to functionality. For example, customer accounts can now be Change approvers (only Agent accounts could approve Changes in v8), and the Address Book now allows a field for manager, which will assist in approving Changes. Otherwise they expanded the tabbed interface in the Project Administration and System Administration screens.

The lack of major new functionality is a good thing, as the product shouldn’t be plagued with a lot of new bugs typically associated with new products. The major new piece of functionality they did add is the Service Catalog, which uses (and extends) the CMDB. Service Catalog is free for CMDB customers. I will review the Service Catalog functionality later, as I haven’t yet had time to play with it in depth.

Note: The author is a contractor and consultant for Numara Software.

IT Spending Down (but not out) in 2009

As reported in Redmondmag.com, a new study released by Computer Economics suggests IT departments do anticipate major cuts in 2009, despite the downturn. However, a third anticipate cuts in travel and expenses. The executive summary, which is available here, says the research is based on surveys of 200 IT professionals, and it the 19th annual production.

However, they performed all the surveys in the first quarter of 2008, as would be expected of a survey of this scale. As a consequence, these results are probably out of date, as the economy has deteriorated even further since September 2008. Several technology and software providers posted disturbing surprises. Sun posted a loss of $1.68 billion. In October 2008 both Intel and SAP announced mediocre results, but suggested future sales would slow as a result of the downturn. Forrester reported overall tech spending growth may slow to 3-4%, if current trends continue through 2010. This is disappointing compared to previous projections, but IT spending appears to be holding up relatively well compared with other sectors.

I will keep my eyes on tech spending as more data becomes available.

Four Day Workweek

I found this CNET article interesting. The benefits of a four-by-ten workweek include lower energy costs, higher retention, higher morale, and higher productivity. It might also improve commute times.

A past study showed changing the lighting improved productivity, albeit temporarily. Reverting it back had the same affect. Productivity improves temporarily because employees feel management cares about their concerns. The affects of the four-by-ten workweek may be termporary as well.

I see resistance from managers who would say “we are already getting ten hours per day out of the employees, so wouldn’t this simply cut off 20% of our productivity?” This one is harder to address, except that productivity drops with number of hours worked. Productivity is hard to measure, but number of hours worked is easy, so managers often opt for the latter as a proxy of productivity. Most execs would continue to work five or six (or seven) days per week anyway.

From an IT perspective, I see this having a positive affect on Change Management and Release Management–longer change windows on the weekend for changes, upgrades, and rollouts. We might expect higher success rates, but to my knowledge this has never been studied.