I have recently been reading “Plundering the Public Sector” by David Craig and Richard Brooks, and now halfway through have been getting more and more irritated with the adversarial tone of the book, and its tendency to shower blame everywhere in unequal amounts.
UK Public Sector projects are usually particularly large (Connecting for Health is quoted as being the largest civilian IT project ever), and inevitably have all the challenges you might expect, and more of them after that.
When discussing the risk profile of projects, I usually use a 2D chart that expresses the two primary dimensions of Work Complexity and Business/Organisational Complexity, a framework drawn from my experience of programme management in large organisations.
The usual chart looks like this:
The Work Complexity dimension registers risks like complex technology, logistical scale, dynamic market environment, whereas the Organisation/Business risk dimension registers such factors as poor communication across fragmented, stove-piped structures and populations, divided loyalties, parochial viewpoints and so on, that arise in any large organisation (driven in the main by human nature in all its forms).
However, for monster public sector projects, I would recast it like this:
The black area represents the terra incognita where overall risk is extermely high due to the sheer size and people complexity, and other factors which have rarely been experienced before.
Blame-shifting and adversarial attitude are not helpful in the context of programme management, especially when exercised with 20:20 hindsight.
However, agile development methods show the way things can be if they are done right. These methods are rooted in the early insights of people like Barry Boehm, a god of software engineering who brought us this…
Iterative risk managemnt approach embedded methods can also be applied to business projects as well as pure development.
Maybe the book will get better and more evenly balanced as I read further, and maybe even propose some solutions, but, for now, having incurred my ire, it has been relegated to the bottom of the pile in the throne room where