pmflying_photo_85x85Since 1996 I've managed many kinds of international ICT projects: from ERP implementations (Oracle Apps & SAP) to custom software development projects. Currently I'm responsible for a program that realizes .Net business applications using an agile approach for a large Dutch government organization.

At the same time I began managing projects, I developed my passion for flying (I fly a Cessna 172 as a hobby). Looking at project management through the eyes of a pilot, I've discovered many similarities. Just like any flight requires proper preparation, the same applies to a project. I'm still asked to manage projects that are deemed "ready to go" (compare: "cleared for take-off") but uncover that though all project members are on board, there is no decent project plan. The customer wants to start right away, so let's go! But would you step into an airplane of which the pilots don't have a flight plan, did not check the weather, are uncertain about the maintenance status of the plane and are unfamiliar with the destination? Probably not.

The ICT profession can learn a lot from the world of aviation. In the past 100 years the aviation business evolved from an exciting-but-not-so-safe way of transportation to an industry that has the highest safety record of all popular modes of transportation. If we step into a plane, there is no reason to assume we will not reach our destination. Yet with all best efforts of the ICT industry, we accept that on average 1 in 4 projects never make a safe landing1. Of course projects are by definition deviations from an organizations normal way of working and a scheduled flight is "business as usual". But every flight is unique too - weather is never the same and airline pilots often fly to destinations they've never been to before. As passengers we expect that the plane will land safely despite hazardous weather or other disruptions, and our customers expect no less of projects we execute for them.

In some aspects one could argue that the ICT business is still a young industry and that aviation has had the last century to get to its current high standards. But the interesting question is why the aviation industry has been able to double it's safety record in the last 12 years2 whereas the ICT industry only has improved by a third in 14 years1. Through my blog I aim to provide an insight into aviation events and best practices and how we, as project managers, can benefit from them.

I hope you enjoy my blog and engage in the discussion.

Jacques Dunselman
Project Manager and private pilot

1 The "Chaos Report 1995" by the Standish Group shows a staggering 31% of all projects will be canceled before they are ever completed. The updated "Chaos Summary 2009" reports that 24% of all projects are canceled prior to completion or delivered and never used.

2 The "Annual Review of Aircraft Accident Data 2006", by the National Transport and Safety Board, shows a rate of 0.1 fatal accidents per million flight hours. The same report over 1995 shows a rate of 0.22 fatal accidents per million flight hours. Long term comparisons show a similar improvement.