Monday, June 30, 2008

20 Ways to reduce IT project failure: Part 1

I believed learning the lesson from project failure is absolute necessary as part of the continuous improvement process. It is also part of the parcels in maintaining high quality to be achieved and maintained throughout organization. Whilst the 20 ways could be discussed in a lengthy workshop method but in achieving some take away tips, I summarized it into key points to be awared of. Hopefully, from my observations and some research will enable more projects to be delivered successfully.

Lesson 1: Manage user expectations

It is vital that the project stakeholders are clear from the outset what is being delivered and what is not. Involvement from key users will be vital in order to ensure that their requirements are captured and that business ownership is established as early as early as possible within the project.

For example, many Year 2000 compliance projects suffered a backslash from their respective user communities when the users of the "new" systems realized they would still be constrained by many of the problems they had experienced with the previous systems. The scope of millenium projects was limited to meeting the requirements of regulatory anda safety bodies, there would be no additional business functionality. Unfortunately, this was not always communicated throughout the organization. It was inevitable then that the expectations of many users, especially those who were aware of the costs of remediating these systems, were shattered at a time when user involvement was critical.

Lesson 2: The project specification must take into account the needs of the business and the requirements of the users.

There are 2 concepts to be understood here. First, projects are conceived and grow from identifiable and measurable business needs. Clear objectives identified at the beginning of an IT project can soon become blurred as the project progresses, a characteristic of projects that have excessively long time scales for delivery. End-users must be identified before the project commences so that their needs are taken into account fully during the design and development of IT projects. It is important that the users understand very early on in the project that they have responsibilities and actions to help the project succeeded. Their needs form a vital part of the analysis and design stages of the project, and a close partnership needs to be established with them if the project is to succeed.

Once requirements have been captured, they should be baselined, introduced into a configuration management system and placed under change control. If requirements are changed or added, impact analysis against the project must be performed and the project plan amended accordingly.
For organizations that develop software incrementally and iteratively, requirements for each software release should be frozen and a mechanism established to allow a new high-priority requirement to be added to the development baseline.

Second the project specification must be focused on business requirements and not technical solutions. A business requirement that identifies, for example, the need for system interfaces and packaged software solutions is a clear indication that the project is IT -led and not business-led. It is vital, therefore to focus on business relevance when obtaining approval for the project, even if, technically, the solution may already be clear.

Lesson 3: "Keep a grip on reality"

It is an unfortunate consequence of the power and capability of technology that it makes organizations believe that what was once impossible is now not only possible. In the early stages of the project, this is often manifested by wild claims being made over the project's potential benefits, combined with a massive scope and an overly-optimistic but dangerously simplistic project plan.

Before you rush off and engage suppliers, users and stakeholders in the project, make sure the project is itself achievable via:

- the proposed timetable for the project is realistic.

- the business case for the project is sound.
- the solution is technically feasible.

The scale and complexity of IT projects will be a determining factor in project success. Both introduce major risks into the project, and steps must, therefore, be taken to minimize these risks as much as possible. Primarily, the level of technical uncertainty or technical innovation within an IT project, combined with the scope of the project, must be assessed prior to the release of funds.

Lesson 4: IT projects cannot be introduced in isolation from wider changes to the organization.

Introducing technology into the organization will not, on its own, solve a business problem. Even so, there is still an expectation within many organizations that the introduction of a new IT system will result in precisely manner. If the necessary changes within the organization are not made prior to project delivery, it is more likely that the introduction of IT systems into the organization will fail to deliver any benefits whatsoever.

The deployment of IT is not an end in itself. It is vital that training costs and schedules are included within the project plan to ensure that staff know how to use and maintain the system. Without proper training, it is unlikely that the full benefits potential of the IT investment will ever be realized, more importantly, a lack of training may introduce commercial and operational risks into the project which may ultimately threaten its long-term viability.
The implementation of new IT systems must be accompanied by the provision of training commensurate with the level of business change and technological advancement. Effective training may take some time and managers must ensure that they understand the impact the introduction of new systems will have on operational procedures.

Lesson 5: A Clear and visible project management structure is fundamental to the project.

All projects must be established around an effective and visible project management structure. Within that structure must exist clearly defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. Formal reporting structures and lines of communication to senior management must be established at the start of the project and continue up to project closedown.

Lesson 6: Take care of people first.

Never forget that it is the people who are the single most important factor in achievement project success. Personal development programs must work alongside the project management framework within organizations to provide the mechanisms for training, performance appraisals, assignments and career development. High-motivated and skilled staff are an organization's most valuable asset and the key to successful IT projects.

Lesson 7: Accept Risk, but manage and mitigate it closely.

Successful implementation of IT systems calls for creative thinking supported by effective risk management. Risks are inherent in IT projects, and whilst it is true that success often comes to those who are prepared to take risks, it is equally true that failures lies in wait for those who do not manage risks effectively.

Risk-taking and innovation are valuable strengths in achieving competitive advantage but are very much dependant on an organizational culture where such activities are encouraged and supported. Above all, it is vital to ensure that any business risks taken must be closely linked to the achievement of objectives.

To Be Continue.....

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