How does a project get to be 5 Years Late?

"One day at a time"

The project objective consists of the business benefits that an organization expects to achieve as a result of spending time and exerting effort to complete a project. Project objectives are basically the reasons for doing the project and should not be confused with project products, i.e. deliverables. Generally, the project is considered successful if the project objectives are met successfully.

Success means
Increased Ridership
Increased system reliability
Happy customers

Table of benefits costs
Name Cost Benefit Success
AVL System $550,000 Management and Operations DRI bankrupt Unknown Success
511 Phone predictions included Customer Predictions Phone 80%
Passenger advisory Signs included Customer Predictions Street 50%
Fare box data integration $30,000 Data integration 60%
Maintenance Contract $135k/year Complete system Overall success depends on successor owner

 OOPS Examples from analysis of the fares data tagged by the DRI interface to the fare box. There is no stop 0 so the counts shown below are representative of the errors produced by the DRI AVL.Clearly this makes the data quality insufuficiently correct to be useful.

STOP #             FARETYPE                      COUNT

0 114 - Stored ride ca 9791
0 115 - Period pass 63305
0 116 - Stored value c 1615
0 118 - Transfer recei 18102
0 119 - Got fare 148451
0 143 - Token or ticke 2613

A list of all the top factors found in “Failed” projects

(X) 1.   Incomplete Requirements

(  ) 2.   Lack of user involvement

(  ) 3.   Lack of Resources

(X) 4.   Unrealistic Expectations

(e ) 5.   Lack of Executive Support

(X) 6.   Changing Requirements & Specifications

(X ) 7.   Lack of Planning

(  ) 8.   Didn’t Need it Any Longer

(  ) 9.   Lack of IT management

(X) 10. Technical Illiteracy

Concepts of Operation

How the project should start.



Develop a Concept of Operations (ConOps) to help project partners stay focused on the true needs of an ITS deployment.

The City of Lincoln, Nebraska’s experience in using systems engineering practices to define needs for an Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) project.

Lincoln,Nebraska,United States

E-mail this Lesson  E-mail | Comment on this Lesson Post a Comment

Background (Hide)

The City of Lincoln Nebraska is in the process of developing the StarTran Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) system to improve operational efficiency, increase information dissemination, and improve safety on their public transit system. As part of the process, a Concept of Operations (ConOps) was developed to help document user needs and define system functionalities. The ConOps format is based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Guide for Information Technology – System Definition – Concept of Operations Document, IEEE Std 1362-1998. This document is a respected industry standard that is often used by systems engineers to describe users' operational needs without becoming bogged down in detailed technical issues that should be addressed during systems analysis activities. The Concept of Operations, developed early in the systems engineering process, provides the foundation for more detailed analysis that will follow.

The ConOps captures user needs in layman’s terms which are later translated into engineering language by the systems engineer or developer. Key components of the ConOps include: a description of the current system, justification for changes, concepts for the proposed system, operational scenarios, summary of impacts, and analysis of the proposed system. When properly defined, these elements of a ConOps help system developers to understand project expectations.

Lesson Learned

A ConOps is a useful tool for the initial definition and justification of ITS projects. The StarTran AVL ConOps is a good example of how a Systems Engineering (SE) ConOps should be applied on ITS projects. A ConOps needs to be prepared properly in order to serve its intended purpose. Users need to make sure that the ConOps is written so that the systems engineer or developer will understand precisely what problems users are trying to solve and their purpose for solving them. A ConOps should not include descriptions of system design components or prescribe technology solutions to address users’ problems. A ConOps needs to stay focused on "what" the users need rather than "how" to design systems to solve user problems.

The StarTran AVL ConOps provided a number of examples of the proper development of a ConOps for an ITS project including:

  • Concisely define the system in order to avoid any confusion about what needs to be developed.
  • Remain focused on the operational system without dictating design features.
  • Provide descriptions of the current system including the inadequacies associated with it. This helps the system developer to understand the problems that the owners/operators need to fix.
  • Write the ConOps with the systems engineer/developer in mind. It is the engineer/developer that will translate the ConOps into an operational system, so it is important for the users to express their needs such that the engineer/developer can understand the problem and what is needed to resolve it.
  • Ensure that the needed functionalities of the system are easy to identify. The StarTran ConOps included descriptions of system functionality written as "shall" statements. This feature in the ConOps allows engineers to isolate and extract the required system functionalities more quickly.
  • Avoid assumptions about the internal content and structure of the eventual system. This is done to avoid getting lost in details, avoid premature feasibility (mis)judgments, and preclude the early insertion of pet design concepts.

Because a ConOps contains project needs, justification, and analysis information, it can be especially helpful when conducting a traditional transportation feasibility study. The ITS engineers should consider including a ConOps as part of the feasibility study process.
This lesson suggests that a ConOps is a tool that helps ensure user/customer satisfaction. In addition, a ConOps is designed to help simplify the definition of complex systems while maximizing productivity of system engineering activities.

Don't let this happen to you

Broward Transit problems

Don't let this happen to you! Micro services can provide project oversite and technical expertise to make sure you get the products and services which meet your need  and conform to local laws and regulations.


From the Broward Bulldog

The Office of Professional Standards is responsible for investigating complaints “of malfeasance and misfeasance filed in good faith under the county’s whistleblower program,” according to the county’s web site.

State law shields the identity of employees or others who file a written whistleblower complaint. The county has a “zero tolerance” policy toward retaliation against whistleblowers.

The complaint says that after DRI was “paid in full” for its poorly performing passenger counting system, it appears as if Swirsky and Blitman “orchestrated” a $13.3 million no-bid deal for the company at county hall – and did so in a way that apparently masked what the county was actually buying.

County records show the commission voted on April 28, 2009 to modify an existing sole source contract with DRI to upgrade a bus announcement system it bought in 2002 for less than $2 million.

But according to the whistleblower, that’s not what the county really bought. Instead, those millions went for an altogether different kind of bus communications system that DRI was peddling, but had yet to deploy at any other major transit agency – an Automatic Vehicle Location/Computer Aided Dispatch system (AVL/CAD).

“Note the glaring omission (in the county’s agenda item) of any reference to an AVL/CAD system,” the whistleblower wrote.  “It is most unlikely that an upgrade of this single announcement system would cost BCT over $13 million.”

[A link to Digital Recorders AVL system overview page]

The whistleblower urged investigators to determine who made that happen.

“Someone at BCT had to provide information to county purchasing personnel that formed the basis of emails and documentation provided by purchasing personnel that in turn created the mechanisms for approval by the Board of County Commissioners,” the whistleblower’s complaint said.

Project Management

Randi used to ask, "How will you and I know when I have done the job to your satisfaction?"
Some clients were disarmed by this question; they had never been asked it before. Inevitably, answers began to emerge. Clients would say things such as:

  • Our record-keeping and accounting costs will decline by 10 percent from those of last year.
  • We will capture 40 percent more revenue from taxpayer compliance than occurred with our previous collectiion efforts.
  • Our Website will move to the top in Google in less than a month.
  • Fifteen percent of the proposals we write will result in signed contracts, as opposed to our traditional norm of 9 percent.

Randi Sherman's question can be adopted by all project managers as well. "How will my project team and I know that we have completed the project to the satisfaction of those charged with assessing our efforts?" The response may turn out to be multipart, but  invariably the answer homes in on the essential question for all project managers who choose to be successful: "What needs to be accomplished?"

You are good at your job, Good enough to know you need some help with the ever more complex technology your organization must employ to remain competitive or to comply with regulations affecting your business..

We offer Project Management. services to  any  organization  needing  temporary Project management services

 In the client advocate role we represent non technical management to work with vendors to achieve project success at the lowest possible cost.

Particularly useful when you are confronting cost overruns and questions about project scope and deliverables.

It has been our experience that some highly technical project cost overruns are attributed to project sponsors (you) when in fact the vendor has not performed .We can identify the root technical issues and rapidly resolve whether it is the client issue or the vendor responsibility.

Of course we can simply manage your in house projects to success in the traditional project management role.

Page 2 of 2