Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Best intentions will not guarantee IT project success

So why do IT projects continue to keep failing when there are so many Project Management and Quality Assurance tools out there to manage them?

Recently I heard of an organization that decided to invest in EVM (Earned Value Management) software so that they could monitor the progress and budget of their forthcoming major IT project. However, the EVM software implementation became troubled. And since this was their silver bullet to help them avoid an IT project failure in the first place, there was no software or processes in place to tell them when, where and how the EVM implementation began to go off the rails.

Simply put it doesn’t matter what variety of IT system, software or SOA initiative an organization is looking to undertake, the risk of IT failure remains the same. If due diligence on an organization’s strategic decision making processes has not been undertaken at the pre-investment or project pre-planning stages, failure (in one form or another) is almost guaranteed.

When an IT Project fails due to human factors, (which is most likely the case), often the causes can be traced directly back to poor or a lack of strategic decision making at the pre-investment or pre-planning phase of the project.

The “What”, “Why”, “Who”, “When” “Where” and “How” decisions of investing in or undertaking IT projects are critical to organizations in determining whether projects will succeed or not. As these decisions are the foundations and key drivers for determining project successes, they must be diligently made by C-level executives and senior management *before* projects commence.

Questions such as:
  • What is driving the investment decision, what key strategic processes do we need in place, what do we need to do to initiate the project and what outcomes do we expect?
  • Why are we undertaking this project?
  • Who is driving the investment decision and project, who supports the project, who needs to be involved and who is accountable for what?
  • When do critical project initiatives and actions need to be initiated?
  • Where are our key information, communication and requirement sources?
  • How will we secure and retain project support, how will the project proceed and how will we measure progress and success?
If these questions cannot be adequately answered by C-level executives and senior management and communicated both verbally and formally to their organizations *before* projects get underway, there is little hope that answers or corrective actions will materialize once the project is in full swing.

Kind regards

1 comment:

Phil Simon said...

Interesting post, Sarah.

Your analysis is spot-on. I have worked on many projects with flawed foundations, two of which became case studies in my book. As a result of very poorly defined or poorly thought out purposes, the projects were destined to fail. It's really hard (if not possibly) for a project to be "successful" without a solid strategy and purpose.