A 100% successful IT project is the Holy Grail for most IT departments in businesses. Most people have heard so many project horror stories that senior managers often believe that it’s impossible to deliver an IT Project on time, on budget and with significant business gain. Instead, they get caught up in all the tales from the trenches, which scare them with continual scope creep, budget blowouts and projects that never seem to end.
But is it always like that? It doesn’t need to be. Many projects are delivered successfully even, shockingly, on time and under budget.
So why it does it go wrong so often?
1) Failure to plan and manage your IT change as a project.
You need to treat your IT project like it is a real project. If you see it as a task that your staff add to their daily list and do eventually, then you’re doomed to fail. You need to give management and staff a framework to work within. This framework is a physical indicator that tells them that this is a real piece of work with a beginning, an end and a cost, but also gives them the roadmap to follow to do the work. So appoint a Project Manager and a Project Team, scope out the project, give it a budget and PLAN the change right down to tasks and timing. If you’re a small business, you don’t need to go crazy and have an overkill of meetings, but you do still need to monitor and manage your tasks, people and costs, at a minimum.
2) No communication or poor communication
This one is statistically one of the more common fail-factors. Projects often fall apart because the project team either doesn’t tell anyone what’s happening, or they only tell selected people. For example, senior management might know exactly what’s going on, but the people the change will impact on a daily basis (your end-users) will be left in the dark. Both groups need to be informed. The more we know about change, the more we are likely to accept and embrace it. And on a very obvious note, if you don’t know something is changing, then why would you do things differently? As a final note, make sure your project team and communication methods include any third-party contractors you’re working with.
3) Focus on technology rather than organisational change
Sometimes IT projects get initiated because the technology is “cool” or you want to stay ahead of the curve. Just look at all the under-utilised smartphones and tablets in a lot of businesses. It’s fantastic if your business wants to be cutting edge and innovative, but you need to make sure your technology change is actually needed and can be fully utilised. There’s no point a salesperson having a smartphone with a data plan, a tablet with a data plan and a laptop with a data plan and yet, it happens. Think through the best use of technology and implement it in a way that’s going to benefit your business and assist productivity, not just drain the dollars unnecessarily.
4) Forcing the change – no plan to integrate into daily life
This point comes down to remembering there’s a Change Management component to your project. There are not many IT projects you will ever do that don’t impact people in some way. You will always be indirectly or directly changing someone’s job. If you don’t allow for that and incorporate it into your plan, then how will that person know something is changing? And more importantly, how will you get them to agree to the change? People at work are essentially creatures of habit, with a large percentage preferring to keep things the way they always were. That’s potentially not very helpful to your project. You want to change things and make sure they provide the business with a good return. The only way that will happen is if you consider the people side of the project and make sure your changes filter down to their daily tasks.
5) Lack of support
Even if you get points 1 – 4 right, your project fail or success will ultimately come down to this point. If there is no internal support for the project, particularly from senior management, then nothing you can do will save this ship. Even if you manage to get to your cutover point, the changes the project delivered won’t last and the business will slowly return to what it did previously. Depressing, but unfortunately true! Don’t even bother starting an IT project if your management team aren’t on board.
There are many factors that influence IT project success and a skilful IT project manager needs to learn how to juggle them all. Remember to give your project structure; make sure you give people feedback and updates; don’t take on vanity projects; match the technology back to working life and above all, get your management team behind you. Delivering your IT project doesn’t have to be an eternal quest for the Holy Grail if you focus on the basic elements.