Is your project “Risky Business”?

Long time readers of FNP blog will remember that one of my favorite movies is “Risky Business” starring Tom Cruise.  For those that might not know the plot, it is about a teenager looking to have fun at home and takes a trip in his father’s Porsche – resulting in the sudden need for lots of money, which he raises in a creative way.

I was just reminded of that movie when I read about several Government failures and lack of planning – one being the current U.S. Healthcare Portal (  I wonder how the project managers and stakeholders did their planning for this web portal project?

I would like to talk about four triggers for some recent, very visible project failures, being one of them. Recognize that in all of these failures, good people were working to do their best, but because of key factors (or lack of), things went very wrong. (“There but the grace of God go I” comes to mind.)

1. Failure to address performance requirements. Example: US Government’s

  • How many people will use it at the same time?
  • How will we measure and test for stability?
  • How do we correctly size the infrastructure?
  • How do we launch it to improve chances of success?
  • How do we ensure accountability throughout the team of contractors, subcontractors, and client personnel to reduce finger pointing?

2. Lack of risk management/poor quality control. Example: Texas State IT Project

  • Have we identified all of the risks?
  • Have we underestimated the impact of key risks based on weak assumptions or poor decision making on our part?
  • Do we have a real risk management plan?
  • How will we ensure quality control?
  • How will we make sure we follow through on all quality action items identified?

3.  Inadequate resources/inadequate skill levels of resources. Example: ?

  • How will contractor and subcontract assign resources?
  • Do we have a resource management pool that helps us find resources with the right skills?
  • What is our staffing plan to fill key vacancies?
  • How will we retain key personnel with critical skills?

4.  Poor Scope and Contract management.  Example: National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom’s IT system (Lorenzo)

For those of you who work on government projects, please share your thoughts on why government projects continue to fail.

2 Responses to “Is your project “Risky Business”?”

  1. PM Hut (@pmhut) Says:

    Hi Bruce,

    It’s good to see that you’re writing on project management again. It’s been a long time since you’ve written anything on the topic. Looking forward to your articles in 2014!

  2. Bruce McGraw Says:

    Yes… 2013 was a hard year for me with a huge proposal and win with the VA. I am excited about having time to write again and look forward to reading other blogs (like pmhut) for inspiration!
    Thanks for the encouragement!


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