IT Best Practices

Chaos Manifesto: Think Big, Act Small

The Standish Group: Small Projects Are Key

The 2013 CHAOS Manifesto, presented by the Standish Group, boils down to just this: it’s almost always better to have smaller projects than larger projects, period.

The report begins with good news (which has become somewhat of an uncertainty in the CHAOS reports: in 2012, 39% of projects were successful (compared to 37% in 2010 or 32% in 2008).  As the report explains:

The increase in success is a result of several factors, including looking at the entire project environment of processes, methods, skills, costs, tools, decisions, optimization, internal and external influences, and team chemistry. Advances in the understanding of the skills needed to be a good executive sponsor have proved to be very valuable for increasing success rates. Increases in project management as a profession and trained project management professionals can be tied directly to increases in success rates. In addition, we have seen an increase in the number of smaller projects and agile projects. Further, we have seen a decrease in waterfall projects.

Chief Enabling Officer

But it’s not just about the size of the project. The report also states that the single most important element to increase project success rates is the competency of the executive sponsor. This person must be a “chief enabling officer” to their organization—a mindset that can spell success or disaster for any project.

The manifesto then moves on to cover ten key elements to the success of projects, including:

  1. Executive management support
  2. User involvement
  3. Optimization
  4. Skilled resources
  5. Project management expertise
  6. Agile process
  7. Clear business objectives
  8. Emotional maturity
  9. Execution
  10. Tools and Infrastructure

Each of these is accompanied by importance of sub-sets within each, what organizations can do to strengthen themselves in each area, and various points which must be considered.

Read the full CHAOS Manifesto here:

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