As I was trolling through my RSS feeds of blogs I try and keep current on and I ran across another thought provoking post by Todd (@backfromred) entitled “The Failure in Gating Process”. I wrote a brief comment to share with Todd and his readers. In the comment I stated that I both agreed and disagreed with Todd’s premise. This blog article expands on that conflict.
Todd’s premise is that having PMO enforced project gates:
- Interrupt project progress momentum
- Allow management and sponsorship stakeholders an excuse to zone till “quality gate #4 next month” before paying attention to the project
- Efficiencies lost to stop, starting and context switching
It is difficult to argue that gating process or projects does have a “cost” associated with the stoppage.
Todd’s solution is better stakeholder engagement.
Again, I can’t disagree with his solution in theory. Where is disagree is in the practical implementation of “better stakeholder engagement” in the real world. First, project teams need strong, competent and knowledgeable participation from these disciplines:
- Project and Executive Sponsorship and Prioritization
- Project and Program Management
- Enterprise and Application Architectural Alignment
- Requirements Gathering, Documenting and Tracking
- Business/Systems Analysis
- Vendor Management (if 3rd party providers involved in solution delivery)
- Technical Development/Integration Leadership/Delivery
- Testing (from unit through final business acceptance)
Simply having resources “engaged” from these disciplines does equal success if the engaged resources lack competency in their discipline and/or knowledge in their discipline to bring into the project fold.
How practical is it to have strong, competent and knowledgeable resources on every IT project in your portfolio?
I argue it is rare and even if all those resources exist in the same organization, they are assigned to the highest priority and visible project(s) alone. This leaves mid to low priority projects with a less than optimal resource mix.
How do you get timely visibility into when a less than optimal resource mix staffed project team is trending off the optimal trajectory?
You need a project gating system applied to specific projects to strategically pause, evaluate and course correct those specific projects.
I chose the previous statement’s phrasing carefully and specifically to avoid claiming that having a default project gating system as a “silver bullet”1 is the answer. Again, I’m not arguing against Todd’s claim that better stakeholder engagement is needed for successful IT projects. I’m saying the practical application in the real world still requires a project quality gating system due to the inability to have strong, competent and knowledgeable resource.
I have some thoughts on attributes of a more efficient project quality gating system, but I think I’ll need another article to collect and share these thoughts bouncing around in my head.