Last fall, I had the opportunity to hear Ross Pettit and Jane Robart present at the ThoughtWork QTB in Toronto.  You can see the full presentation and slides on InfoQ. (Hint: if you are in Toronto, there is a talk on Legacy Systems coming up on Friday, Feb 5th).

The most memorable phrase from the presentation is: All IT projects are a voyage of discovery. This seemed to be a very salient way to express learning and communication are key.  Check out my drawing of a boat 🙂

So the talk is all about governance – how do we ensure that our projects are succeeding? There really isn’t very much in there about the PMO’s role and for that matter about Agile.  Still some very interesting points…

One aspect of governance is making sure we have the right people in the right roles since IT is a people business. The reality is that most managers tend to stick with people even if they aren’t working out in that role. One idea is to use net promoter score: would you recommend a colleage for another project?

Another key idea is independent steering committees. In many cases the stakeholders (usually senior management) are on the steering committee for a project that they are sponsoring. Well, you know what happens when there is a conflict of interest. I’ve seen it happen first hand recently and it wasn’t pretty.

Finally, good steering committees have a breadth of talent that can function as a team to dig into the project data and ask tough questions. They need the right set of lenses to view the project from different perspectives – technical, financial, customer, etc.

Overall the talk was quite informative since I have seen lot’s of room for improving governance at most organizations I have worked at.