Book Review: The Success Healthcheck for IT Projects

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Sometimes projects don’t go according to plan. Do they ever? It’s a good idea for projects to have a healthcheck to ensure that they are moving in the right direction. J.A.’s Success Healthcheck for IT Projects: A Insiders Guide to Managing IT Investments and Business Change. Flinn teaches you how to identify projects most likely to succeed. It also provides some tips on what to do if you discover that failure is possible.
This book will help you to benchmark and compare your current project performance. Flinn writes that if projects in your company are not performing well, your business is at a competitive disadvantage. Businesses that are able to deliver predictable, accountable results and are able to adapt quickly can be more successful than those that cannot deliver.
She says, “Benefits is what we want…Results is what we get.” This book is about results risk management. Understanding what risks could get in the way we get the results we want.
Are there ever times that aren’t turbulent? It feels long since stability was the norm, at least.
Flinn points out the higher likelihood of large projects failing than small ones. This conclusion will not surprise many of you. Yet, we often use the same approach on small projects as on large projects. Although her book is targeted at IT project managers, there is no reason to believe that her logic is not applicable to projects of all disciplines.
A lot of the book is the result of her own research. She has also created odd circle diagrams to explain business context risk in relation to a particular project. Different parts of the circle map correspond to different issues in a project. Although the circles make sense if you use them consistently, the key to understanding them is not explained until page 178. This was too late for me.
Before you can get to the circles, however, you must first understand what makes projects successful. Flinn outlines the four steps that lead to project success.
“1. Accept that success is not always guaranteed. Calculate the probability of a project’s success.
2. The ratio of non-performing projects (NPPs) should be measured. Recognize that it’s not enough to accept a project cost that is a bit under, late, or over budget.
3. To achieve business success, value the lower risk of failure. Invest in reducing risks that lead to success.
4. To fund any changes to the plan, explicitly use results-based risk management.
The book is well-researched and very quotable. I especially liked the section “Vanilla, it’s not a diet option” where she discusses out-of-the box IT system implementations without customisation. The risks involved in installing IT systems without customisation are discussed in great detail.
The chapters end with key takeaway points that summarize the content. The book has neat sidebars and is easy to follow. You will find numerous examples and case studies throughout the book. The book is challenging to read because of its complex concepts. It’s not something you’d want to read from beginning to end unless you are serious about reducing business risks and increasing your chances of success. We all have these interests. But will you actually use the ideas?
This book is a rare combination of simple, easy-to-understand soundbites as well as theory-based research. It was difficult to balance it at times. However, you can be sure that Flinn is committed to the success of projects and that her suggestions for improving project success will prove to be beneficial.