No Pain, No Gain

I recently spent time thinking about a software development project I’m managing that had me a bit puzzled.  This is first time in my long experience in project management where there is absolutely no pushback from anyone in the business regarding the project.  No one is questioning the reasons to do it, the scope, or the approach.  The organization is clearly aligned and committed to getting the project done.

I’ve managed software projects for multiple fortune 500 companies, with 8 figure budgets and project teams of 100 plus members.  There has invariably in every project been an individual or group that was either passively or actively opposed to the project.   That is not the case in this project, so what is different?

I reviewed the “Top ten reasons why projects fail” lists to see if there were any clues to why this project is so different.  I’d not looked at any of these lists for some time, and found it interesting how many different variations there are.  The top two on my personal list are having a clear and well defined business case, and the importance of executive sponsorship for the project.  My most difficult projects have been those where the business case was ill-defined and when executive sponsorship was missing.  Most troublesome has been projects where the executive sponsor has changed, or when C-level executives, who are major stakeholders change.  In these situations the business case is often questioned by the new leadership and executive support can disappear. When executive support wavers, passive resistance can turn active quickly.

Below is just one of the top ten lists I came across in my review, and number 1 and number 9 in this list match my personal top two.

The current project that breaks the mold with no one opposing the project has a business case and executive support, much like the majority of the other projects I’ve managed.   Even with these in place, all the other projects still had a level of resistance.

So why is everyone across this business on board and actively supportive?

The conclusion I’ve reached is that it must be the “pain factor” that has everyone aligned.  The system that is currently in place is very old and lacking in functionality.  Business processes are very manual, error prone, and labor intensive.  The pain in using the current system is widespread across the organization and constant.  The entire organization is supporting the project that will ultimately make the pain go away.

My personal list of things that impact the likelihood of project success or failure now has a third major consideration, the pain factor.  The higher the pain factor and the broader it is across the organization, the more likely the organization is to rally behind the project that will make it all better.  Conversely, a project that is not going to impact the organization by relieving a painful situation, may not have as high a likelihood of success, even if there is a strong business case.  When the pain factor is low, all the factors on the top 10 lists become more important.

Successful projects don’t just happen. They require attention to all the factors that can cause projects to fail or not deliver a quality solution to the business. Archetype SC can work with you to identify your top ten risks and the strengths of you organization that will mitigate these risks and insure success in your project delivery.


Excellent Project Management post by Tom Tsongas.  January 13, 2014.

  1. Lack of a Project Charter
  • The Project Charter is essentially the ‘what’ portion of the criteria of the project. It dictates exactly what is being built, created or enacted and explains in high level terms the various justification and initial scope for the project.
  1. Lack of User Involvement
  2. Poorly Defined Requirements (Poor Scope Definition)
  3. Scope Creep
  4. Inadequate (or non-existent) Testing
  5. Lack of Resources
  6. Use of New or Unfamiliar Tools
  7. Political Infighting
  • It exists in companies as well as governments. Functional managers and executives with their own vested interest in specific aspects of the business can often come to blows over new or existing projects.
  1. Poor Project Management

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