Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top Down Accountability For IT Project Success

So how can we manage C-level executives of organizations before their next IT Projects commence?

Specifically, they need to be kept fully accountable for their initial input and project decisions that they make *before* the project commences. This is because these are the critical investment and pre-implementation decisions that will drive subsequent business processes for these IT projects.

As HP CEO, Mark Hurd, went on to say about the job of the CEO: "At the end of the day, [the CEO has] gotta get this part [business processes] of the business right to be able to align IT throughout the company. It's no different than aligning your sales organization, aligning your R&D, aligning any other piece of it."

Rather than letting CEO’s and Chief executives lay the early foundations for IT project failures (through poorly made, unfounded and unaccountable decisions), organizations needs to manage and delegate upwards. This will prevent them sitting back while their minions, who actually execute the project, take the fall for what they could have prevented at the projects outset. By making better decisions and hence ensuring robust project processes,  accountability of all executive strategic project decisions will be assured.

A point that James Taylor makes in his article, “Make Better Decisions”, is that organizations, and especially senior executives, should conduct some form of decision making discovery. This is a critical issue that I support and one that I believe should predominantly also include C-level executives.

Even the best Project Managers and project management tools, cannot ensure the success of a project if the initial strategic investment and project decisions made by C-level and senior executives are poor, devoid of input, lack hard facts and where the executives making them are not held accountable.

Critical project discipline decisions, as outlined below, all result in the development of important pre-project planning and business processes. If these decisions are delegated, glossed over or taken without sufficient collaboration and input from the *appropriate* parties, then the supporting business processes will thereby also lack substance.

    * Communications
    * Requirements gathering
    * Stakeholder support and involvement
    * Management support
    * User support and involvement
    * Strategy alignment
    * Success and Progress Metrics
    * IT Risk and Governance
    * Solution and Vendor Selection
    * Change Management
    * Training and development

Each of these strategic project disciplines and business process decisions should be orchestrated at the top of the organization by the CEO and C-level executives. In order that these disciplines don't become "Reasons for Failure", critical decisions about "Who" and "How" to execute and manage each discipline must be made at the top of the organization.

Because many of these disciplines and business processes are already incumbent within organizations, a general blaze attitude to addressing them can become prevalent. For this reason, C-level executives unfortunately often abdicate any responsibility for making these discipline decisions, thereby removing most of their accountability.

This may all seem a bit harsh, however I have rarely (if ever) seen any CEO or C-level executive become a scapegoat for a failed IT Project - (other than the unfortunate CIO).

Kind regards