Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Three Project Variables

I see from this article on the BBC News web site that MPs are worried about the London Olympics Project.

It has a fixed deadline of course that cannot be moved so there are only two of the three project variables left to play with.

Ah - but wait! They are also worried because the budget has soared; "the Games' cost had at first been underestimated and private sector funding 'seriously overestimated'." Olympics Minister (It has a Minister!!!) Tessa Jowell has pledged to keep an "iron grip" on the budget.

So that's two out of the only three project variables either fixed or compromised. That leaves just one to play with, Tessa...

Oh no...! The Public Accounts Committee have voiced concerns that the organisers may forced to "accepting lower standards, to get the job finished."

Well that is the only variable left...

Adjusting any one of the variables affects the other two. If any variable is fixed then adjusting one of the others affects the remaining third variable dramatically. If your original costings or estimates or perception of what is achievable has not been realistic in the first place, then you are left with a nightmare.

In this case, it appears there was a rather optimistic view of how much contribution would come from the Business Sector. Also the Public Accounts Committee has warned that Risk Control is not being applied all that well. Risks need to be managed with an "iron hand" they say.

Managing Risk well does not come at zero cost, as you have to spend money on mitigating some risks, on insuring against others, on work to identify and monitor them. It does, or should, however, cost less than if no risks are identified at all.

Ignoring risks does not make them go away. So when they do turn into issues and there have been no mitigating activities to reduce their impact and no "Plan B" to swing into action, project managers are forced to manage them in crisis mode. The same managers who accused you of "worrying about things that haven't happened yet" are now the same ones saying angrily "why didn't you think of that???"

JISC infoNet has a number of free resources aimed at the Higher and Further Education sectors mainly, but equally applicable to most others. The resources include Project Management and Risk Management

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