Monday, July 7, 2008

20 Ways to reduce IT project failure: Part 3

Lesson 15: Always Perform a post-implementation review and publish the findings.

The post-implementation review is a vital process that must be undertaken if lessons are to be learned from the project. Despite the clear benefits, such a process can deliver, there are very few organizations who perform post implementation reviews in a formal and structured way.

The consequences of failing to perform a post implementation review are simple: the organization and more specifically, the people within it are denied the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. A post implementation review is designed to establish how well the project has met its business objectives. The scope of the review should, therefore cover all aspects of the project, such as business objectives, user explanations, user satisfaction, predicted benefits, technical requirements, supplier management and quality assurance.

The post implementation review is often the final task to appear in an IT project plan and is often added in the knowledge that it signifies the end of the project. This in many ways is the reason why the benefits of the review are never realized; the task itself is seen as a terminating activity rather than an initiating activity.

Whilst the post implementation review might well signify the end of development and implementation activities, there is still one remaining deliverable from the project, the post implementation review report. The failure of organization to learn the lessons from project failure is often simply because the post implementation review is never analyzed and used to improve future projects. Crucial information gained from suppliers, customers, developers, management, and users is more often than not, filed away in the project document repository, never to be used again.

Lesson 16: Project Management experience and leadership is Vital.

Successfully delivering an IT project is not jus about producing the project plans and writing reports, it is about dealing with people, handling conflict, negotiation and influencing others within the organization.

Successful projects are characterized by individuals who lead rather than manage. A good leader earns respect and is rewarded by working with a team who will " go the extra mile". In return, a good leader will display courage, common sense , authority and charisma. IT projects are likely to encounter difficulties along the way and having a good , strong leader at the helm may just be enough to turn a potentially doomed project into a successful one. It is often said of a good project manager, "the people who work for you should admire and respect you and your boss should think you're insane".

Even an experienced project manager with strong leadership qualities may still not be able to save a project that does not have executive support and business ownership. A good project manager will , however, be able to recognize the warning signs early enough in the project to take an appropriate course of action. Inexperience is often the reason why many project managers become so entangled with minor events that they fail to spot the serious issues which have the potential to jeopardize the whole project.

The use of experienced project managers is essential for ensuring that IT projects are delivered on time and within budget. Project management is a skill that takes time to master and is not something that can be learnt "on the job". If organizations are to improve the success of their projects they must invest in project management training schemes and develop an effective standard project management framework.

Business and IT staff should not be promoted into project management roles solely on the basis of their technical or commercial abilities. For those individuals who show a genuine desire to deliver successful projects into the organization, a combination of training and mentoring schemes must be established within the organization to support their career aspirations.

Lesson 17: Audit your projects

Audits provide the means to check and enforce quality standards across IT programs and projects. Audits also provide visibility of potential problems and ultimately can be used to protect organizations from commercial risk.

Lesson 18: Ensure that financial controls are in place.

Once budget for project phases and deliverables have been developed, a reporting framework should be implemented to enable the actual costs, variances and estimated costs to completion to be identified for each project activity.

Lesson 19: Build trust through open and effective communication

Effective communication is fundamental to the success of an IT project. When communication fails, it is likely to have a corresponding and detrimental impact on the project. Effective communication has one key objective- to enable information to be exchanged and understood between individuals or groups. It is the open and honest exchange information that allows rapport, trust, ownership and approval to be established and maintained throughout the project.

Whilst the widespread use of email as the primary means of communication within many organizations is a welcome factor, you cannot plan and control IT projects via email. Managers who send out a huge list of activities, roles responsibilities and milestones to an unsuspecting and uninformed audience via email in the hope that this will "get the job done quickly" are very much mistaken.

Human contact is vital if communication is to be effective. Face to face meetings with project stakeholders and team members should be encouraged wherever possible. Combining verbal and non-verbal communication within your meetings will ensure that the information is not only exchanged, but understood.

Lesson 20: We are only Human Being and mistakes tend to happen.

Whilst there may be fears that computers will one day rule our lives, it is somewhat reassuring to know that the awesome power of computer technology is nothing compared to the ability of a human being to make a mistake. Indeed, there are many cybernetic experts who would probably argue that this is only characteristic that differentiates us from our silicon counterparts.

Of course the point of the matter is not that we make mistakes (although reducing their regularity would be no bad thing) it is the fact that we do not include the possibility of them happening in our reasoning and as a consequence fail to manage such events when they do happen.

It is important to remember that no one individual or team is more important than the project itself. Humility is a virtue that differentiates those who consistently fail from those who learn from their mistakes. Indeed, humility is arguably the most important virtue for those engaged in projects consuming large amounts of investor's money.

In conclusion, it is almost impossible by following thru the entire 20 lessons or ways, one will be successful each of individual projects. However, it is merely a guideline provided as part of lessons to learn after a completion or project review or project delivery. Enjoy your reading then.

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