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The enlightened CIO's guide to running projects

Corinne Forrest | Dec. 4, 2013
How HBF’s David Gollan and his IT team transformed a once chaotic project environment in Perth.

When David Gollan became group CIO at Perth health fund HBF, he discovered that the 25 projects delivered by IT each year took far too long, were over budget or schedule and could not demonstrate value to the business. Governance was also haphazard at best.

Recent changes to the HBF business model meant IT also faced doubling the number of projects they delivered in half the time. Time-to-market had now become critical.

HBF used a systematic diagnostic and targeted improvement approach that could get it past its current project delivery inertia and improve performance.

The approach had to meet Gollan's fundamental belief that portfolio, program and project, resource management and strict governance should be in place.

It needed to cover these foundational capabilities without wasting time on less important matters such as maturity assessments, methodology reviews or compliance issues. It also needed to be quick and easy to implement.

Embarking on any PPM improvement program can be challenging for many reasons. For instance, the project management office (PMO) may not have created a strategic plan or be so mired in operational tasks that it has no time to spend on broader initiatives that improve project capabilities and results.

PMO leaders often begin with whatever they know best such as reporting, compliance, project management methodology or scheduling. But that approach is unlikely to produce either the thoroughness or the performance uplift that the CIO or the business requires.

Getting the basics right

In HBF's case, Gollan and his team couldn't map out specific objectives and initiatives until they knew where they were starting from. The first phase was about going back to fundamentals -- getting the project environment to better align with the corporate strategy.

HBF undertook a comprehensive diagnosis that gave it an objective assessment of the project environment and the PMO's performance. This analysis also helped it qualify and prioritise opportunities for improvement while focusing on PPM fundamentals.

The assessment quickly proved what Gollan already suspected -- the project environment was far too costly to run, was taking too long to execute projects, and falling quite a way short of his performance expectations.

"We had to start out with a solid foundation that built credibility with the business," says Gollan.

"That included changing our resource model, implementing a 'fast track' project approach on time critical projects, decreasing project execution costs, improving capabilities and streamlining the project environment."

We had to start with a solid foundation that built credibility with the business.

The next phase

The second phase of HBF's program targeted cost and complexity. Gollan consolidated and set performance targets for the project environment and the PMO, always focusing on capability in PPM fundamentals (governance, project, resource, demand and scheduling management), which avoided the long march towards "maturity".


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