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Summer of Books 2011 continues with an interview featuring Joanne Flinn, author.
Joanne Flinn is author of The Success Healthcheck for IT Projects – An Insider’s Guide for Managing IT Investment and Business Change. I reviewed it in February. Joanne Flinn was visiting London earlier this year for a business trip. I had the pleasure to meet her for coffee. I had the pleasure of meeting her recently to discuss her book.
Joanne, your book focuses on giving projects the best chance of success by identifying those most likely to fail. Why did you choose to focus on this?
Failure can be both predictable and preventable. It is important to spot potential project failures early so that the right things are done to keep it on the right track. This will ensure that the team sees their hardwork accepted and used, and the business users see the project a great success. It takes curiosity and courage. It takes curiosity to find out what’s really happening and courage to face it.
Statistics show that 33% of projects end up in disaster. That’s a lot of work (who wants that?). It can also lead to a lot of wasted investment (which business can afford that?). This book offers a health check for projects that involve both IT-people and goes beyond the basics of project management.
It is a detailed book. It’s a very detailed book.
To keep my project management skills sharp, I did a HEC and Oxford mid-career degree. My thesis was required. I discovered that very little had been written about the topic of large-scale project success and failure. Many approaches are more than 20 years old, and times have changed. This gap was a prompt.
Did you notice anything else in your thesis research?
Another motivation for the book was to find out what technology failures were costing businesses and our reputations. A third of projects end up failing dramatically. This is a lot to pay and a lot to frustrate. I hate being the one who is on the receiving end for a poorly implemented project. I also get frustrated when I see the hard work of the project team being ignored.
After all your research, how did you start writing it?
To share the human side… I had a wonderful experience with a man and realized that to truly know if he was the one, you need to spend time together. I was half a world away from him so I decided to stop talking about writing and just write. I traveled to the country where he lived and set myself up as an author and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Writing was like starting over. In my previous career, I had written many documents (consulting documents, corporate reports, and that thesis). I quickly realized that the style I had learned was not the best for a book that would reflect real-life project issues and be supported by science. Even adding a personal touch was difficult. I had been trained to be focused on data, but the data was saying “It’s all about the people!”
How long did it take to write this article?
It took me 18 months to complete the book. I spent 3 months on the first draft. Yes, I did throw them away. Nine months to write, and nine months to edit.
Although writing a book is a huge undertaking, I believe it is worth it. What was the best part about writing it?
It was the best thing about creating analogies and choosing the best-of the-bundles from all the great war stories that I had heard or been a part of over the years. I loved designing the layout and structure of the book. It was important to me that it was not a text-only book but something that practitioners could use.
That was a great feat. I enjoyed the part where you addressed the risks associated with managing an out-of the-box software implementation. It was very practical.