Preventing IT Program Failure, Part 4: Only Whole People, No Fractions

“4 out of 3 people have trouble with fractions.” Unknown

Organizations compensate for too many projects by slicing and dicing people between projects. The figuring out and management of all these fractional people is a colossal waste of time. Assigning percentages of people’s time to projects is a sign that there are too many non-prioritized projects.

Projects that fully allocate the needed resources to get desired outcomes, like working software, succeed virtually 100% of the time.  Projects with fractional resources tend not to meet scope, schedule and/or budget.

Once an organization has prioritized the programs that will deliver what customers really want, and cut down on planning in favor of delivery, then they need to ensure that the programs are fully resourced.

It’s like an airplane. To fly from Chicago to Florida safely, in a certain amount of time, requires an entire airplane, with fuel, with a pilot, co-pilot, and the right # of flight attendants. The right amount of seats, snacks and drinks. A runway to take off and land on, a ground crew, and a gate. A method of getting luggage on and off the plane. Passengers will not get to Florida with a fraction of a plane, a quarter of the amount of fuel, and a portion of a runway. You can assign five accountants and twenty project managers to that problem and it will never change – you cannot get to point A to point B without the full amount of resources.

In a prior post about improving IT velocity, I compared the common practice of assigning 50% of a developer here, 25% of a business analyst there, 30% of an architect somewhere else, to a bad game of Tetris.

  • Valuable blocks of people’s time stack up unevenly, leaving blank spaces of unproductivity
  • Time needed to context switch between projects detracts from delivery
  • Focus is blurry – if all the projects assigned are important, then none are important
  • Overhead to manage fractions of people on projects is more complex and this is non-value added

Conversely, if organizations prioritize and fully resource the most important programs:

  • Single focus and common goals for the team
  • Frequent team collaboration and problem solving supports on-time delivery
  • Better information flow increases velocity over time
  • Reduced overhead related to planning and resource management

The #1 issue I hear from IT talent is they are juggled between projects and don’t have sufficient time for any of them.  The #1 ask I hear from IT talent is to have less projects and let them finish one before starting the next. Give the teams what they want – the ability to focus and deliver. Happier IT talent, happier customers – win/win.

Afterword: The only potential exception to full resourcing is specialized roles that are only needed for small, defined tasks in a program. For example, certain security expertise.

Worth considering:

The hack of Jeff Bezos’ phone is fascinating and disturbing. Though most of us are not prime targets, we’re still all potential targets. Here’s an article with sensible tips to keep our phones safe.

Reading about the Jeff Bezos phone hack led me to a January 2019 article on Amazon’s current top executives. As of that time four of 48 top executives were women and only one reported directly to Bezos. I was curious about the current makeup;  2 more women were added to the top team (nicknamed the “S team”) in December 2019 which will now be 19 men and 3 women. I make that out to be just under 14%.

I recently needed an image of a coach for a presentation. Did a quick search for images using the term “coach.” Got hundreds of photos & graphics of male coaches, along with Coach purses and Coach shoes. So men coach and women … Coach? Needless to say I was unamused. (Nothing against Coach products. They are entitled to good search engine optimization just like any other brand.)







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s