The problem with big projects… well, kinda…

Deloitte is one of the great consulting companies. They produce really good, thoughtful information to companies that need it, large and small. They have access to some of the most advanced business thinkers and software tools available.

But, that can be the problem in their arguments in their report, “Reining in Project Risk Predictive Project Analytics.” This is a paper on how organizations can increase their success rate in complex projects by better-predicting project performance. After citing statistics that show the larger the project, the more likely the failure, as well as the effects of such failures, the paper takes the reader through a history of project management, arriving at a methodology called Predictive Project Analytics, or PPA. The methodology is designed to guide a company through a project lifecycle, and minimize the risk of failure. Who would not want such a tool?

When you read the paper on page 6 gives you the PPA overview, a comprehensive process from performing “project complexity assessment” to delivering the findings and recommended actions. It’s Deloitte’s database that drives PPA – a database based on 2,000 completed projects that they have categorized by product type, management approach, and other factors. What is key, however, is their conclusion on page 7: “research has shown that complexity itself was not the factor influencing failure; having the right people and controls in place was ultimately more important.” Their conclusion? “More complex projects require higher degrees of project management expertise and controls in order to succeed.”


Of course, Deloitte delivers case histories in the paper of companies that have utilized their PPA tool, and for larger companies, it is probably worth the investment.

But the real problem is time – which is money. While larger companies handling complex projects have more time and more money, if Deloitte’s conclusion is right – that the right people are more important in success – then having the right people with or without PPA should do the trick – right? I mean, if you had a choice, would you buy the right person, or the right software tool? With due respect, the person trumps the tool every time.

In any project, regardless of size, time is the enemy because as the clock ticks, deadlines come and go, and deadlines – or objectives – are at the core of all projects. Deloitte is a terrific resource because like other consulting companies, they help not only the big firms they are aiming at, but the smaller firms who benefit from their thinking to, well, think things through.

But in any paper – including this opinion piece – reader beware: What is the motivation for conveying the information to you, the reader?

Our motivation is the same as Deloitte’s: we want you to be stimulated enough to call us and start a conversation that leads to business. But the content of any information has to be grounded on other-than-expensive-software or proprietary solutions, no? It’s one thing to make you think with information; it’s another to say “think, but you’ll think better using my solution.”

If having the right people and controls in place is more important to a project’s success, then the problem is really finding those people, and then putting controls in place, isn’t it? But isn’t having the right people with our without controls at the core of project management per se? Let’s have a discussion!

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