Sunday, 15 May 2011 00:00

The Progressive CIO's Model for Project Success

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Information Technology organizations continually struggle to build systems that meet their customer's needs. They work tirelessly developing solutions that are delivered late, difficult to use, or deficient in key features and functions. This is nothing specific to the last couple decades; it stretches back to the first systems developed. Fredrick Brookes eloquently underscores this in his recount of the 1960's software engineering project to develop the IBM 360 in his book The Mythical Man-Month (1975) and is required reading for all IT executives. For the Chief Information Officer to solve this problem takes a new approach, one, nearly opposite from today's direction.

A Different Approach

As with many solutions, the answer is not found in experimentation but in observation. End-user computing, the oft considered anathema of IT professionals, provides the hint. This is the group of business geeks who construct what IT appears incapable of building. Using tools like the Excel and Access they create applications that automate and streamline their business's flow. Unfortunately, these systems are frequently deficient in the robustness required by the enterprise. End users lack the tools, training, and experience to detect those flaws until they have need integration with other applications, multiuser access, or restoration of lost data. The common answer—moving the application to IT and rewriting it to handle the enterprise requirements—is accompanied with huge capital expenditure, frustration from languishing in the development queue, and significant ongoing maintenance expense. This scenario is repeated time and again in organizations around the world, achieving identical results—a dissatisfied customer. This answer needs to be rethought. If the user is better at creating useful applications and IT builds better infrastructure, then create an organization to mimic that model.

Like The Business

Want to read more?

Keeping customers, vendors, project members, and other stakeholders together on projects needing heavy IT involvement can be a challenge. Our Project Inception - Designing Organizations For Success white paper talks about redesigning your organization to achieve the best project results.

The mantra of the past is to run IT like "a" business. However, the unintended consequence distances IT even further from the customer. IT should not be run like "a" business, but, rather like "the" business, aligning to their goals, understanding their pain, and rapidly responding to their needs. To achieve this, IT's business analysts, developers, quality assurance, and project managers must be placed in the business unit.

Architecture and infrastructure should remain collocated and used as shared resources. This ensures IT's foundation is solid and it can respond to the business. This core IT group needs to focus on providing a robust backend that will accommodate the customer's strategic plans. They provide the adhesive glue and support for the business's initiatives.

In a recent chat with Jim Highsmith at It's About Coffee, he explained how he approaches the problem using the agile principles. Covered it in a recent article, he points to the solution of how quality and value relate to the traditional triple constraints. I am calling the combination of the triple constraints, value, and quality the business constraints. The project constraints are just a subset of these overall business constraints (see inset). Applied to the model above, the business is responsible for the IT supplied project teams. Project success is measured by balancing value, quality, and the triple constraints.

The concept of the IT project has vanished, there are just projects using IT resources. The business owns ensuring the value, the architect owns the quality (robustness, reliability, technical debt, extensibility, etc.), and the project manager must tune the triple constraints to meet the quality and value needs. This creates a new paradigm for managing project where the focus is not a tactical scope-schedule-budget, but includes the strategic components of value and extensibility/quality.

Since most IT organizations service numerous business objectives, it needs to maintain the optimal architecture to achieve all the business's strategic goals. This is accomplished by providing the means to complete the project, including the technical resources and the architecture.

Project teams, resident with the business, have a much clearer picture of the needs; hence, they focus their efforts on tuning the triple constraints to provide value. Accountability resides with the business, where it should, all team members are responsible for designing and building an application addressing the problem, and IT provides the tools and resources to create those applications in an enterprise worthy manner.


The challenge is maintaining a common direction for the IT resources and ensuring an adequate pool of resources to match the company's strategic goals. This requires frequent training in the skills and tools that are required for proceeding down business's strategic roadmap, strong IT governance, and a unique combination of confidence and leadership to guide a distributed IT organization. This starts with a CIO who is indifferent to the number of floors his or her staff occupies or the latest shiny-ball technology. Modern CIOs need to foster superlative communications throughout their ranks, wherever they may be located.

By divesting the project teams to the business, the modern CIO helps inculcate business operations knowledge into the IT staff, resulting in IT becoming a well-respected and valuable organization within the company. Leveraging this added strength bolsters the position of the CIO to one that is critical in running the company—one deserving of a seat at the C-Suite table.

Read 15941 times

Related items

  • Webinar Topic Example

    Nearly any topic that Todd Williams writes about or speaks on, he can do a webinar. You can find some of his "uni-directional" webinars on (see partial listing below) or you can have a fully interactive session as in the audio clip.  The limitations of the session are based on the tool used. In this example, the ZOOM meeting tool was used and it did not allow recording of the video. The session was recorded on May 29, 2019 at 12:30PM London time (4:30AM Pacific). There were about a dozen people online, about half of them had their video turned on, and the meeting organizer (Jonathan Norman) moderated the call. 

    What Example Webinar: Eliminating Blame Covers

    Here are three uni-directional webinar examples posted on (these are free to PMI Members)

  • Filling Execution Gaps: How Executives and Project Managers Turn Corporate Strategy into Successful Projects
    What Filling Execution Gaps Covers

    Filling Execution Gaps

    by Todd C. Williams
    ISBN: 978-1-5015-0640-6
    De G Press (DeGruyter), September 2017

    Project alignment, executive sponsorship, change management, governance, leadership, and common understanding. These six business issues are topics of daily discussions between executives, middle management, and project managers; they are the pivotal problems plaguing transformational leadership. Any one of these six, when improperly addressed, will hex a project's chances for success. And, they do—daily—destroying the ability companies to turn vision into value.

    Check it out on Amazon or the Filling Execution Gaps website

    Without the foundation of a common understanding of goals and core concepts, such as value being critical to success, communication stops and projects fail.

    Without change management, users fail to adopt project deliverables, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without maintaining alignment between corporate goals and projects, projects miss their value targets and projects fail.

    Without an engaged executive sponsor, scope increases, goals drift, chaos reigns, value is lost, and projects fail.

    Without enough governance, critical connections are not made, steps are ignored, value is overlooked, and projects fail.

    Too much governance slows progress, companies cannot respond to business pressures, value drowns in bureaucracy, and projects fail.

    Without strong leadership defining the vision and value, goals are not set, essential relationships do not form, teams do not develop, essential decisions are not made, and projects fail.

  • Filling Execution Gaps: Building Success-Focused Organizations

    Executives define vision, strategy, and goals to advance the business. Projects enable companies to meet those goals. Between strategy and projects, there is a lot of work to be done—work that lays the foundation for project and operational success. Through experience and research, six common gaps exist in organizations that inhibit project success—an absence of common understanding, disengaged executive sponsors, misalignment with goals, poor change management, ineffective governance, and lackluster leadership.

  • Get Recognized as a Leader: Four Core Leadership Actions

    Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if there is not unanimous agreement with the decision. Although there are hundreds of actions leaders must take, there are four core actions that all great leaders do—listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and eliminating blame. This session will discuss those actions in a roundtable format that we call a "What Would You Do?" session. In these sessions, the presenter acts as a moderator spending 10 to 15 minutes per topic working with the audience talking about what the action is, how to best do it, and hearing from the group on how they have carried out the action. This brings significant audience interaction, involvement, and broader education. 

  • Build Your Leadership Style: Six Leadership Strategies

    Salespeople, Project managers, and business leaders, to name a few, need to change their leadership style for every situation. Situational leadership is more important for these roles than nearly any other role in an organization. Central to this leadership style is commanding the six core strategies—directive, expert, consensus, engaging, coaching, and affiliative. These sets leaders the foundation for building the most appropriate leadership style for the conditions surrounding the current events, people in the room, and external conditions. In this roundtable session, which we refer to as a "What Would You Do?" format, the audience debates the use of each strategy as the presenter poses various conditions and dilemmas that face leaders daily. This creates an educational, interactive and entertaining presentation that builds cohesiveness in your group and relationships that last long after your event.

Leave a comment

Filling Execution Gaps

Available Worldwide

Filling Exectution Gaps cover

Filling Execution Gaps is available worldwide. Below are some options.


PG DirectLogo
Limited Time Price $20.99
Amazon logo
Book or Kindle
Flag of the United States Canadian Flag Flag of the United Kingdom Irish Flag Deutsche Flagge
Drapeau Français Bandiera Italiana PRC flag
Japanese flag
Bandera de España
Flag of India
Bandera de México
Bandeira do Brasil
Flag of Australia
Vlag van Nederland
DeG Press Logo
Barnes and Noble Logo
Books a Million Logo
Booktopia Logo
Worldwide: Many other
book sellers worldwide.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Other's References

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.

Upcoming Events