Vol. 22, #38 - September 18, 2017 - Issue #1149

WServerNews: Reader Feedback - Should we end large IT projects?

Free Tool: Permissions Analyzer for Active Directory 


SolarWinds® Permissions Analyzer for Active Directory™ gives you instant visibility into user and group permissions and a complete hierarchical view of the effective permissions and access rights for a specific NTFS file folder or share drive – all from a user friendly desktop dashboard.  Browse permissions by group or individual user, and analyze user permissions based on group membership combined with specific permissions.  Unravel a tangled mess of file permissions: network share, folder, Active Directory, inherent, explicit, calculated and more.

Download the Free Permissions Analyzer Tool Today. 

Editor's Corner

This week's newsletter continues on the subject of why large IT projects fail and what can be done to prevent this from happening. We've got lots of feedback from our readers to share on this topic and we believe some of the observations and recommendations our readers make will be helpful to many of you. We also have some brief reflections on the passing away of someone who is well-known in some IT circles, and of course we have tips, tools, news, and fun stuff for you to while away the boredom as the boxes in your server room or datacenter keeps happily humming along.

Unless of course you've moved everything to the cloud. Speaking of moving your datacenter, have you considered moving it to Elbonia? Dilbert had some reservations concerning this idea as the following comic strip illustrates:


Ask Our Readers: WServerNews now has over 220,000 subscribers worldwide! That's a lot of expertise to tap into. Do you need help with some issue or need advice on something IT-related? Got a question you'd like us to toss out to our readers to try and answer? Email us at [email protected]

Remembering Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Pournelle passed away last week at the age of 84. Some of our older readers may remember Jerry as a popular science fiction author during the 70s and 80s. I remember him best as the writer of a long-time column in Byte magazine, a popular and influential IT magazine that was widely read during the 80s. I used to subscribe to Byte in those days and whenever I received the latest issue in the mail, the first page I'd turn to would be Jerry's column where I eagerly read the stories of his latest struggles with the annoying foibles of early PC hardware, MS-DOS, and later various versions of Windows. Jerry's observations were always enjoyable and entertaining, and his insights and workarounds usually gave me something to take away I could use in my own battles with computers. When Byte magazine folded it was a sad day indeed for both hobbyists and IT pros, but fortunately Jerry carried on recounting his antics on his own website with a column called Chaos Manor, and basically inventing the concept of blogging by doing so. You can still find Jerry's blog here so feel free to drop by and share your condolences with his friends and family:


While Jerry's political ramblings never interested me much, I would still visit his blog from time to time for a dose of "computing nostalgia" and was happy to see him still pounding away on the keyboard. For what it's worth I never cared much for his novels (Isaac Asimov was my own personal favorite as a Sci-Fi author) Jerry's contribution to the culture of personal computing is in my opinion at least as great as that of John Dvorak, Walt Mossberg, and a few others. So as IT pros let's all raise a toast to Jerry for his recognized and unrecognized contributions to our profession, and if you've got a story of your own you'd like to share concerning Jerry's ramblings or Byte magazine, feel free to email me at [email protected]

By the way, if you are a genuine bona fide nostalgia hound you can still browse selected back issues of Byte magazine here on the Internet Archive:


And now let's move on to the main subject of this week's newsletter…

Reader Feedback - Should we end large IT projects?

Last week's Issue #1148 Should we end large IT projects? generated a ton of feedback from our newsletter readers so we decided to dedicate this present issue to sharing and thoughtfully considering some of the observations and suggestions we received from our readers. If any other readers would like to offer their own thoughts or recommendations on this subject you can email me at [email protected]

You can't escape Murphy's Law

Reader Tom Gueth offered the following take on why large IT projects often fail:

Most large IT projects fail for a number of reasons. While I think that more recent large projects face a greater risk due to technology shifts and new methods (I don't use "new" technology as in most cases "new" simply isn't -- this could be a long topic on its own), in most cases the issue is time to complete. The longer the project, the more likely it will grow in scope, run into technology shifts and competitive changes. So the problem with large IT projects is simply they take too long to complete.

Second, is just poor programming. Just simply mistakes made and not found until late in the process. Now, in this area, continuous development (or whatever the latest marketing buzzword is) is finally making progress. Slow, but it is progress. Programmers are human, they make mistakes. The issue is not the mistakes, but how late in the process they occur.

Lack of feedback from the targeted end users. It simply amazes me how often the end user is kept out of the loop. The best code in the world is useless if no one wants to use it. Won't necessarily make a project perfect, but it will get much closer faster if the end user is involved.

And finally, create what the user needs not necessarily what they tell you they need. I have listened to and read great specifications for project. And the programming staff takes off the build what they are told. But what is required and usually lacking is the ability to "understand" what is asked for and translate that into actual code. The ability to translate is so lacking in IT, and in reality most projects of any kind. There is this belief that projects can be mechanized. And in fact much of programming or development can be. But the creative ability to understand what is wanted, not just simply state a fact of what is wanted.

Small messy projects have a better chance of success than detailed, long term, giant projects. Murphy's law just makes large projects hard to do.

Tom's observation about the dangers of keeping the end users (the "consumers" of your project) out of the loop is a good point. It reminds me of how fashion companies that are driven by designers often end up having poor sales because the clothes they produce don't fit most "normal" people.


Self-importance is to blame

Craig Hollins from Australia points the finger squarely at our own sense of self-importance when we're involved as part of a large project:

The number one reason ANY project fails is a false sense of perspective.

I recall in my air force days that each section thought it was THE reason the air force existed. I even had one radio tech state that the only reason the air force had aircraft was so they could get radios in the air. He was joking, of course, but it stuck with me because it highlights priorities. Everyone thinks what they do is the most important thing.

So, with IT projects (of any size), the focus is on delivering software that does what the design brief says, doesn't crash and is easy to use. It started life as an improvement to a business process but that's long forgotten by the time code is cut. Programmers see their code as the end product when in reality it's the business process.

Too often the business process has to change in order to meet the requirements of the computer systems. Sure, often it includes improvements, but just as often it needlessly makes more red tape.

My solution? Have a plan with a constant path for improvement and clearly defined business processes. But everything happens in small, manageable chunks.

In the big scheme of things we're probably not nearly as important as we think we are even though the success of an project typically depends on the expertise and performance of all who contribute to it. Craig's suggestion of not forgetting that the real job of an IT project is to improve the client's business is a good one that all project managers (and participants in the project) should constantly keep in mind.

There are no IT projects!

David Hendrickson, a retired project manager who holds the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, offers a different take on the whole idea of what an IT project really is:

In my humble opinion, the moniker "IT project" is part of the problem. It tends to put the blinders on focusing only on the IT solution without continuing to monitor impacts to the rest of the business. This tends to be more prevalent the larger the "IT project".

Projects are (should be) related to business strategy. Technology can, and many times is, part of the solution to a business problem.

Projects normally referred to as IT projects should be called business projects with technology as part of the solution. This change of perspective tends to keep all stakeholders engaged. Additionally, focus is on the total solution, not just the technology portion (hardware/software…).

Therefore, I recommend that we start a trend to do away with the term "IT project" and keep the focus on furthering business strategic objectives with technology as part of the solution set.

This certainly is a welcome change of perspective and a good example of thinking outside the box. I'm sure a lot of problems with larger IT projects are due to not properly understanding how they fit within the larger scheme of achieving the strategic objectives of the customer involved.


There's a limit to how granular certain projects can be

Anthony Stuckey, a Network Engineer working for an institution of higher education took issue with the following statement from my editorial in last week's newsletter:

"Perhaps large IT projects should be broken down into a series of smaller projects that are implemented independently not as milestones in a larger project but as standalone entities by themselves. Perhaps special training and oversight should be needed for those in charge of large IT projects to help ensure they have a high probability of coming to a successful conclusion. Or perhaps everybody should ditch proprietary software and go Open Source all the way."

Anthony responded to my expostulations as follows:

Projects have to be large enough to actually achieve their goals. Breaking certain projects into smaller projects is often literally not possible. Deep infrastructure like authentication services (Kerberos, Active Directory, etc) can easily require Flag Days where the whole organization is required to so something at the same time, often with limited possibility for backing out.

Other projects fail due to poor specifications, limited budgets, poor planning, lack of understanding of the actual customer needs, etc. For many projects, the actual intricate details are not in the base system, but how it is and must be customized for local use. SAP and other software is often not meant to be used in a raw state. Budgeting and accounting software often has legal compliance requirements outside of the actual software project. Discovering halfway through a project that major assumptions about how a system is used are invalid is a problem.

And yes, proprietary software is its own problem. Building systems on open source is a far better idea. Being able to trace the components and know exactly how they are used allows for much better project planning. Systems that "just work" are not necessarily forced into obsolescence at the whim of some outside agent.

Thanks, that brings a bit more sense of reality to what I was talking about in my previous editorial.

A few more observations

Roy from Ontario, Canada says:

Some cannot be avoided. EG data center moves. Technology upgrades. The thing to know is how to manage large print projects. And just hiring outside "expertise" is not an answer. That is just a common way to position for failure with a scapegoat in place. Use a trained PM and back his decisions. Ensure you have relevant milestones in place and don't proceed just because a schedule says today is the day. Identify the risks and make sure you have contingency plans for all of them. And ALWAYS test your plans. You may not be able to implement the interim steps, but you MUST test the implementation plans along the way. This is more vital the longer and more components are in the project. Finally, if you're using one of the big consulting companies to run or execute the project, make sure they have some serious skin in the game.

Howard from Brazil says:

I once was a Temp working on assignment at Halliburton in Houston Texas. At the time, we were told our participation was on one of the largest national rollouts of an operating system, Microsoft Windows 98. it took place over a weekend and it was performed floor by floor and testing every workstation to verify installation and no data lost in transit from the servers. My question to you is what is your definition of a large IT project. It would seen to be too vague. I am unable to conceive of a modern project lasting years to finish.

Finally a reader named Tony says:

I agree with your assessment of large IT projects. One item you didn't mention was project creep, which in the past this was the death knell for large IT projects. In today's business environment you can count on creep or significant change caused by technology. The same technology that affects the computing environment also affects the business goals or how they are achieved. New business capabilities available through outside resources or new mechanisms, changing business environment, due to regulations and changing competition, and more rapidly changing business personnel bringing both creativity and business politics that change internal landscape; all change that impact the deliverables of an IT project. A 3-4 year project has little chance of success with a changing target or one that is accelerating away.

If any other readers would like to offer their own thoughts or recommendations on this subject you can email me at [email protected]

Send us your feedback

Got feedback about anything in this issue of WServerNews? Email us at [email protected]

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Factoid of the Week

Last week's factoid and question was this:

Britons are the most lactose-tolerant people in the world. Do you experience lactose intolerance? What do you do to counteract the discomfort?

Since we didn't receive any responses to that question and because it involves nutrition, we're going to carry it over to the Nutrition Tip of the Week section of our next issue of FitITproNews, so stay tuned!

Now let's move on to this week's factoid which should be pretty easy for those of you who are movie buffs:

Fact: When a pope dies, his seals are defaced and his ring is split in two.

Source: http://www.wservernews.com/go/ig5eje8d/

Question: What movie begins with a scene showing this happening?

Email your answer to us at: [email protected]

Until next week, 

Mitch Tulloch


Admin Toolbox

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GOT ADMIN TOOLS or other software/hardware you'd like to recommend? Email us at [email protected]

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Windows - Administering BitLocker

Brandon Wilson has some good tips on the Ask PFE Platforms blog explaining how you can effectively use MBAM to manage Windows systems protected by BitLocker:


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Blog du Tristank describes a way you can quickly determine whether you're missing lots of security updates for older Windows versions:


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While locking your computer when you're away from it is obviously a best practice, Windows 10 also lets you customize your lock screen to personalize it. This tip on The Electric Wand blog explains how you can do this:


Events Calendar

Do you know of any other IT conferences or events that you think readers of this newsletter might be interested in knowing about? Email us at [email protected] with the name, date, and location of the event along with the event URL.

IT/Dev Connections on October 23-26, 2017 in San Francisco, California


SharePoint Unite on October 24-26, 2017 in Haarlem, Netherlands


DEVintersection on October 31 - November 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada


European SharePoint, Office 365 & Azure Conference on November 13-16, 2017 in Dublin, Ireland


SharePoint Fest on December 609, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois


Add Your Event

PLANNING A CONFERENCE OR OTHER EVENT you'd like to tell our 100,000 subscribers about? Contact [email protected]

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WServerNews - Product of the Week

Free Tool: Permissions Analyzer for Active Directory 


SolarWinds® Permissions Analyzer for Active Directory™ gives you instant visibility into user and group permissions and a complete hierarchical view of the effective permissions and access rights for a specific NTFS file folder or share drive – all from a user friendly desktop dashboard.  Browse permissions by group or individual user, and analyze user permissions based on group membership combined with specific permissions.  Unravel a tangled mess of file permissions: network share, folder, Active Directory, inherent, explicit, calculated and more.

Download the Free Permissions Analyzer Tool Today. 

WServerNews - Editors

Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit and has been author or series editor for almost fifty books mostly published by Microsoft Press. Mitch is also a ten-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his  outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com.

Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also manages research and marketing for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.