How to Handle the Projects ?
It is commonly understood in the IT industry that "most projects fail." This prediction of doom and gloom is overheard in corporate corridors and has been consistently written about in the technology trade media. Large-scale information technology projects are traditionally prone to greater failure rates than other complex projects of similar size and scope -- in engineering or construction, for example. According to a University of Maryland study, projects are often designated as "failures" if they are over schedule by more than 30 percent, over budget by more than 30 percent, and the end product does not meet user requirements.
Industry research reports that most projects "seem" to fail in the last third of the project; yet in reality, they fail in the first third of the project. For those IT executives not experienced or well-trained to manage complex IT projects, a project may look like it is running along smoothly until it is too late to do something about it.
Fortunately, IT executives can learn from those who have gone before them. Given the complexity of IT projects and their high rates of failure, sponsoring an IT project can be a daunting and monumental task. After years of experience working with IT executives from multi-national to regional corporations in various industries, I have witnessed how those who practice a set of seven distinct habits are infinitely more successful than those who do not.
Though some are more visceral than measurable, the following practices should allow every IT executive to recognize failure before it occurs -- or better yet, avoid signs of failure all together.
1. Understand The Challenge There are three things inherent to IT projects that make them more apt to fail than other projects. First, there is no governing body in the IT industry that dictates certain standards for IT implementation. Second, technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, it is difficult to build a competency in any one particular area before it changes. Last, it has become standard practice to deliver IT projects with at least some flaws. Conversely, a margin of error is slim to none in the automobile, aviation or medical industries.
2. Exhibit Self-Awareness Successful IT executives need to fully embrace their role as the project sponsor. They need to obtain all necessary C-level buy-in and secure adequate funding. Project sponsors must clearly articulate the objectives and strategies to the project team, offer their time and lend their support.
3. Know Your Team Players The "human factor" is absolutely critical to the success or failure of an IT project. IT executives need to hand pick each member of the project team based on a detailed assessment of the skills and experience necessary to get the job done. The most critical player on the team is the project manager. In addition to having a specific set of skills, training and experience, the project manager must also have the ability to motivate and drive peers, exhibit attention to detail, and understand how to use project management tools properly.
4. Outsource Experienced IT executives often hire an outsourced IT consulting firm to assure success. When choosing an IT consulting firm, the savvy IT executive looks for a firm with literally hundreds of man years addressing challenges similar to what their company is facing; that has a proven, scalable and flexible methodology; that is vendor independent; that staffs every complex project with senior-level strategists that they can trust and respect; and that is able to provide in-person service on-the-fly.
5. Start with Discovery Believe it or not, many IT projects begin without a "discovery" phase. During the discovery phase, requirements and expectations are defined, the infrastructure is assessed and project recommendations are made. Ideally, neither a project team nor a project budget should be finalized until the discovery phase is complete. In fact, in some instances, a discovery phase may reveal a project that is destined for failure before any time or resources are consumed. A discovery phase can be a painful process, but one that yields valuable results. Following the discovery phase, there should also be a clearly defined planning, design, testing, implementation and monitoring phase.
6. Require Documentation IT executives should request a number of weekly documents from the project manager. First, a "run rate analysis" for both the budget and the schedule -- where the project is in relation to where it is supposed to be. Second, there must be a pre-determined "serial path" as well as a "critical path." A serial path assumes that one item is dependent upon the other and will not start until the item that precedes it is complete. A "critical path" maps out how to accomplish the goal in the least amount of time. Tasks that can be accomplished in parallel are clearly defined on a "critical path." IT executives who are trained to recognize potential project failure stay off the critical path at all costs, as there is no room for error once a project hits the critical path stage.
7. Communicate Frequently and Openly Project sponsors need to be seen and heard and stay front and center. They need to listen carefully to their project managers and ask the right questions at the right time. They need to be ready to address problems along the way. A "no news is good news" mentality will leave a project sponsor with a failed project in the end. At the onset of a project, successful IT executives ask their project managers to create an "issues and concerns" template. They direct their managers to complete this form as challenges or roadblocks arise during the project.
IT success does happen. IT executives who practice the aforementioned seven habits will find themselves going from the hot seat to Easy Street. Good luck, I hope it works for you the same way I've seen it work for so many of your peers.