Friday, April 24, 2009

Do the decades differentiate IT Project failures?

So, how does Corporate Profiling influence the successful outcomes of IT Projects – including Agile Development, Cloud Computing, SOA’s and any other type of IT project?

Today's technologies are a far cry from the times of paper tape input and card deck readers of mainframe computers that required real estate approximately the size of the White House in the early 1970s just to supply a fraction of the computing power of a single modern server.

In the famous words of Albert Einstein:
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”
Albert Einstein

Has technology outsmarted us and exceeded our ability to keep pace in today’s information age?

Are organizations fooled into believing that a natural outcome of these technology advancements is that their next IT project that utilizes Agile Development, Cloud Computing, SOA or other advanced packaged solutions will have more chance of succeeding than IT projects of the ‘70s?

Most top level executives can conceptualize how technology works and what it is capable of delivering, but very few actually comprehend the complexities involved.

The fact remains that these technologies still rely on human factors. Unfortunately they therefore still face the same risk of failure and are still subject to ongoing issues regarding support, communications, requirements, management and poor decisions.

So, what does Corporate Profiling change and do differently that can help organization to minimize the risk of project failures?

As we have all come to realize, there is no panacea, no silver bullet and no “10 point plan” or easy path to guarantee an IT project’s success. Corporate Profiling, however, does reduce the risk of a “ready, fire, aim” approach.

In a nutshell, it is a pre-implementation/pre-investment process undertaken by organizations before they embark on their next IT project. This is done ahead of and is not a replacement for methodologies such as process modeling.

And according to Plato:
“The beginning is the most important part of the work” Plato

Firstly, Corporate Profiling provides an extensive framework of key decisions and questions that need to be addressed by an organization’s leaders and executives. Their answers validate the decision to pursue the project and underpins its success by mandating core strategies vital to the project’s execution and flow.

These decisions require collaboration between relevant parties and peers to ensure consensus that leads to fully supported decisions. All decisions require executive accountability to ensure the quality of these decisions. The resulting decisions and derived information at this initial stage of an IT project forms the basis for further development of a Corporate Profile which will then provide the answers and input required for each subsequent critical step within the pre-implementation framework and process.

Corporate Profiling promotes three key principles: Visibility, Collaboration and Accountability. All three are required to ensure that a solid foundation is established before a project commences.
Visibility of an organization’s key elements and processes is critical to developing a blue-print of the organization and allows for the accurate identification of correct and extensive project requirements, communication points, information sources, interlinked relationships, strengths and weaknesses and the most appropriate people or parties to be involved in the project.

Often it is the less obvious or indirect factors that adversely impact upon a project if they are not identified at the outset. Visibility also alerts an organization to other not so obvious parties that need to be involved in providing input into the key project discipline decisions.

Collaboration on all strategic project decisions by C-level and senior executives is critical to ensure that unbiased quality decisions are arrived at, consensus is achieved and that decisions are fully supported. Collaboration is also a prerequisite for requirements gathering to ensure that all input and feedback is received and correctly processed.

Accountability empowers employees to drive change and to feel involved rather than becoming cynical or resistant to change. Responsibility for key decisions more often than not just promotes issues such “agreement for ease of an answer”, “deferring to a higher power” or “self appointed decision makers for the group” to name a few. On the other hand holding parties fully accountable for results and outcomes is critical to ensure that quality input into strategic project planning decisions are obtained.

If you look back on your experience and encounters with IT Projects, I am willing to bet that the majority of the causes for failures would have been avoided if a Corporate Profile had been established at the outset.

Kind regards
Sarah Jane Runge

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