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Delivery of Projects

The next time you are at one of the industry’s get-togethers try asking your colleagues if they have delivered any projects on time/budget recently.

When they assure you that their projects are always delivered on time and to budget probe a bit deeper (possibly involving beer!), “Was that the timetable/budget initially agreed with the sponsor/budget holder at the start of the project?”

You will be horrified by the answers.

As an industry we have become so used to projects being late that we no longer notice. We’ve even built slippages and over runs into our project methodologies: milestone and cost tolerance. Argh!
This is nothing short of a scandal and as professionals we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Let’s look at the scale of the scandal. A few minutes with a spreadsheet will reveal that each week of delay for a typical £3m HPC purchase is roughly equivalent to £50,000. But these costs are invisible to the project: staff costs, lost business benefit, electricity, data centre opportunity costs, cost of money, etc. However to the business overall these are very real. And this ignores the wider industry costs. Delays in customer acceptance (and therefore revenue recognition) is so endemic that suppliers build a risk premium into all of their prices. (The cost to a supplier of each week’s delay to acceptance of a £3m HPC is about £15,000 on a £3m HPC system. Hint: It’s not the supplier paying this; it’s the customers.)

This is our industry’s Silent Spring moment.

We have the tools in our hands, but we are either too lazy or too arrogant to use them. Strong governance is hard and it is difficult to admit that we might not have the required level of expertise or experience in house.
This is not about delivering a convincing case for a Red Oak engagement (though it is that in part!) but a more general call to arms across the industry.

Owen Thomas

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