Christchurch Quake Map
I have been an avid advocate for PRINCE2
as the project management
methodology with agile practices incorporated to deliver the specialised products of the project (software, hardware, service etc.). I have recently been working with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to provide geospatial support required for evidence based decision making as it charts a course for a difficult journey to bring Christchurch
city and the Canterbury region
as a whole back on its feet. This has led me to ask if PRINCE2 or agile methodologies
can be used to deliver a project of this nature.
Let us review the fundamental tenets of the two methodologies. The key to PRINCE2 is the management structure of the organisation. Here I refer to the project management structure with the Senior User representatives as the organisation, rather than the entity which the project is being conducted for. In a state of emergency or its aftermath, most of the staff in CERA are seconded from other government agencies. They are so busy keeping the ‘lights on’ in their existing roles, having an effective Senior User group becomes virtually impossible.
Agile too requires participation of the stakeholders. It is assumed the users have the ability to help plan, prioritise the product backlog and provide timely feedback of stories in progress. Many of the staff simply do not have the time luxury to do justice to that. They are not only involved in the recovery of the region, but also their individual lives. Priorities also change from day to day. While some may argue this is ideal for agile delivery, there is a limit to agility. The fine line between agility and chaos is crossed more often than not.
A factor that has impact on both methodologies is the fact that most data owners are outside CERA and the service provider. Data is owned by the city and regional regulatory authorities, engineering companies assessing the damage. While there are some powers that CERA can use to ensure data requests, it becomes a futile exercise brandishing big guns to achieve small gains. What is required is more of people (or organisation) management to ensure high morale and a sense of accomplishment together.
The key to success here is programme management ahead of time. It is key to have a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) where the various agencies can find and harvest data. Encouragement needs to be provided to ensure participation is seen as beneficial to all parties. There is always apprehension about data quality and the likelihood of others discovering those errors. Rather than having those as barriers to participation, it needs to be seen as opportunities to improve data quality through feedback.
When not in emergency, it may seem there is little benefit to undertaking such a programme. Benefits of the programme needs to be judged not on what it is achieving in the existing business processes of the organisations, rather the opportunity costs of not having knowledge or access to the data to undertake more accurate analysis or create additional products. In times of emergency this becomes the information backbone of recovery efforts and policy decision making. This has to be managed as a programme, not a project.