Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment I of III)

Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment I of III)

Who hasn’t heard a research analyst say that 60% of IT Projects fail? Whether you heard that 20 years ago or yesterday it’s still touted as an unsolved problem. So then why? We’ll avoid what would be a much larger discussion of how software development models have changed over the years. From Waterfall, to JAD, to Agile, and maybe now turning back again; let’s instead focus on the elements of project delivery that matter most.

Much focus is given to the process of project management, often referring to PMBOK published by Project Management Institute. Notwithstanding process significance, I’ve seen where knowing how bait a hook doesn’t always result in fish. In the same way, I’ve hired PMI certified PMs that failed miserably at following the established guidelines to successfully execute a project.

So, what elements are key to IT project success, and how do we improve executing on those? Let’s boil it down to the three that I’ve found key to success. They are: Project Schedule Rigor, Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement. In this first of three segments we’;; address Project Schedule Rigor.

Project Schedule Rigor assumes you put together a detailed project plan. Rigor, as defined in terms of strictness by Webster’s Dictionary is “the quality of being unyielding or inflexible”. When we refer to schedule, being flexible means you’re not serious about deadlines. Yielding to unscheduled changes also risks not meeting deadlines. It’s not about being “nice” to all those that want to take the heat off, but about getting it done. Rigor means taking a timely review of progress against schedule. In other words, publicly stating:

  1. What did we get done that was promised by today?
  2. What will be done to catch up before our next review? and
  3. What will we do to ensure we do not miss anything by our next review?

This can be done in the form of “Stand Ups”, Sprint Reviews, or any other method that exposes misses and clearly holds people accountable. It doesn’t matter whether it’s done in person or virtually; as long as no one leaves until all three questions are answered fully, and it’s glaringly clear who owns what. In terms of tracking short-term “projects” progress, a “W3” – Who, What and When plan of action works just fine.

In summary, a detailed project plan, and familiarity with the guidelines of great project management are table steaks. The real value comes from executing the plan. Effectively. Being fully prepared only pays off if you stay for the entire game, and apply enough rigor to create a win.

In the next two segments well address the critical elements of IT project success — Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement. Check back for those.

Sources:

Project Management Institute – http://www.pmi.org/

ENTRY Software – http://blog.entry.com/why-is-project-resource-planning-still-no-better-than-guesswork

Webster’s: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor / https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abatement

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.