If you want to know about failed IT projects, you don’t have to look very far. In fact, if the Standish Group’s Chaos Report is to be believed, over two-thirds of all software project will fail. Let’s set that aside for the moment and instead consider the other side of the coin – the brighter side. What makes IT projects successful? Check out these five top factors that we believe are essential for a decent shot at getting it done on time, within budget and with a satisfactory result.
- It’s not about technology
Probably the first and most important issue is to be sure that the right technology is going in to meet a specifically defined business requirement. Cool technology is one thing…cool technology that delivers business value, quite another. Understand the ‘why’ first; why do we want to do this? Before even considering the ‘what’ and the ‘how’.
- Take your time up front
IT projects tend towards the complex. Beware of ‘accelerated deployment methodologies’; while these do have their place, it is far better to take time and invest heavily in planning. It may not be possible to foresee every eventuality, but you do want to be sure that when you start, the project is clearly defined, the requirements and outcomes understood, and the necessary resources arranged to ensure delivery.
- Stick to scope
IT projects, especially ERP deployments, are notorious for scope drift. It happens for a number of reasons; as the implementation gets underway, things are discovered which weren’t anticipated (such as data migration and integration) which now have to happen for the project to work well. Or additional possibilities are noticed and decisions made to extend the system to include functionality or features which weren’t initially planned. Don’t do it. Once scope creep starts, it can be very hard to stop.
- Stop and look around
If the project looks like it is going pear shaped, don’t press on into the abyss. Stop. This can be extraordinarily difficult, but those project managers who have the courage to say ‘this is not working, we have to reassess’ are going to put themselves in a better position to ultimately achieve the right outcomes. Throwing good money after bad (known as the Concorde Fallacy) is not going to solve a serious problem. Acknowledging it, pulling up on the reins and changing direction can.
- Get a better understanding of what ‘success’ really means
The thing with the Chaos Report is this: if so many IT projects really failed, how is it that the world still works at all? This points to a potential problem with the definition of success. Projects which haven’t come in on time or on budget can still go on to deliver outstanding value in the organisations where they were deployed (not everyone believes the dire findings of that report).
Again, this goes back to our first few points: often, overruns occur owing to insufficient planning, incorrect technology choices, unrealistic scoping or the inability to alter course when necessary (and yes, points 3 and 4 are potentially contradictory, but this does not lessen their validity.)
Do the first four things well, and the fifth should be clearer – and more attainable. And, of course, be sure to choose an IT partner capable of getting your next project over the line successfully.