4 Reasons Your Technology Projects Fail

Rusty Thompson, VP of Project Management Solutions, The CSI Companies
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All companies use some project management methodologies in their IT projects today don't they? Using a methodology and running projects effectively are sometimes worlds apart. In today's fast changing markets, implementing new software and hardware technologies can be the difference in gaining a market advantage or losing to a competitor. What can you do as a technology leader to make sure your organizational projects don’t fail?

We will start to answer that question by defining what a project is. A project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service. A project has a defined beginning and end. So why do your projects seem to never end and cost twice as much as you budgeted? Let's discuss 4 executive level reasons that your organizational IT projects fail.

1. Lack of Executive Level Buy-In to the Project - There is nothing worse than attempting to run a project that has no buy-in from the executive team. Projects should always be in line with supporting the organizational strategy. If the project is not in line with your strategy, you are wasting valuable resources and money attempting to deliver something that lacks value to your organization. As a leader, be involved in the process of determining what projects should get the time, attention, and money from your budget. Reject projects that don't make sense. Projects without buy-in tend to die off before they are completed. The result is—frustrated employees who were assigned to the project as well as dollars flying out of your budget.

2. Operational Resources Are Assigned to Complex Projects - Organizations that play the resource shell game end up with projects that consistently miss due dates and go over budget. If your “keep the lights on” resources are integral to project delivery, you have a problem. Operational issues are frequent in most IT organizations and the production side of the business must stay up and running. So if your project resources spend the majority of their time resolving production issues, how much time are they devoting to their project deliverables? I can tell you from experience the answer is not much. Find creative ways to eliminate this risk with your resources. Re-assign your teams to be operational or project if you can. It's the same amount of work with the same amount of resources, you are just assigning the work in a different way. If you do this and don't have enough resources to “keep the lights on”, then you either have too many projects or you were always understaffed. Resources assigned to both tend to burn out quickly and find other jobs. Your good resources can easily find a new job and you are usually stuck with the ones that you wish could find other jobs.

3. You Have too Much Process - Organizations with very little process tend to have a hard time delivering projects. The same can be said about organizations with too much process. If your project manager is spending more that 30 percent of their project time with their nose in a project schedule or creating reports then you have too much process. While reporting and tracking are important to any project, the most important piece is to be a leader to the project team. Leaders don't sit at a desk, create reports and read email all day. Leaders lead. When you have a project leader instead of a project manager, you will find your projects will start to be delivered “on time and under budget”. Project leaders know the vibe of their teams. They can sense a team that is not working well together. By interacting with the team and by being face to face, the project leader will pick up on project risks that can never be found with a mouse and keyboard relationship. By eliminating unnecessary and burdensome processes, red tape, and reporting from your project processes you will free up your project managers to become project leaders. Take the time to evaluate these processes in your organization on a regular basis. IT is all about process, so after you remove the unnecessary ones, new ones will find their way back in.

4. You Skimp on the Planning Phase - It is normal to want to get a project started as soon as possible. The sooner we start, the sooner we can finish. But in pushing your project teams to start executing too soon, you place risk into your projects. IT projects tend to be complex and they can contain complex dependencies that are sometimes hard to uncover until it is too late. By allowing your project teams to adequately plan, you give your projects a higher chance of succeeding. It is better to find out complex issues, risks, or that a project cannot be done in the planning phase than after you have spent half your budget on the project. Just remember, the shorter the planning the phase, the longer the execution phase. Sometimes this is exponentially true. As a leader, embrace the planning phase in order to decrease the length of your execution phase.

IT executives sometimes feel they have no direct control over the success of the projects in their organizations. But by analyzing your organization against the 4 pitfalls above, you can greatly increase the chances of success. When you increase your chance of success, you have saved money and built the moral of your IT project teams. It’s all about your culture. Lead your teams to greatness.

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