But, as we’ve worked through hard problems with our clients, we’ve discovered that the key to making significant improvements is aligning these 4 components. We now call it the “4 Things and the 6 Alignments.”
Alignment of these components is challenging, but the effects of misalignment are clear:
The most recent Standish Group report says that in 2012 (2013 results have not yet been released), 61% of technology projects failed to perform up to expectations (they were not successful). And, 54% of small “Agile” type projects (using modern languages, methods and tools and with less than $1 million in labor content) from 2003 to 2012 failed to perform. While agile delivery methods are certainly an improvement, they are not sufficient because they do not address the other three components of the “4 Things” model. They cannot change the performance of the overall portfolio because the reason the portfolio under performs is the other three components: Strategy, Technology and Organization.
Consider a concrete example: One of our clients ran a large project using a relatively modern delivery model. They were doing delivery processes pretty well: small iterations, frequent feedback, pull processes for demand management, etc. The project failed. Badly.
The project failed, in this case, because this modern delivery model was not aligned to the strategy of the organization. This particular technology organization serves external customers, which can only be consulted once or twice a year due to some unique conditions of their industry. And, the product they were building targeted those customers. And yet, their delivery model had not been adapted to gather requirements twice a year. In fact, as old fashioned as this sounds, this team would have had a greater chance of success with an approach closer to waterfall.
It’s an important lesson. We have to see our technology organizations as a comprehensive system that will produce results. Our model, the “4 Things and the 6 Alignments”, helps us, and our clients, root out problems before they inhibit the performance of the portfolio. In the coming months, as we work on our 2nd edition of our book, we will explore some of these ideas in more detail.