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

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

(Previous segments Segment I of III,  Segment II of III)

To recap from earlier segments I and II, we talked about the critical project success elements of Project Schedule Rigor and Proactive Resource Management. Now let’s finish off with the critical element of Proactive Risk Abatement.

Proactive Risk Abatement is something that is often completely missing, or disguised as a filler page in a budget request as things that may go wrong. Webster’s definition of proactive is “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes”. The definition of abatement is “the act or process of reducing or otherwise abating something”. Abating risks simply means you want to avoid a risk becoming an issue. It’s not about managing issues – that’s what contingencies are for; it’s about avoiding them.

At GE I learned a process that boiled down to a few simple steps:

  1. Define all the risks you could think of
  2. Decide on scale of one (low) to five (high) both the likelihood that risk might occur (probability of occurrence) and the effect (effect of occurrence).
  3. Decide what actions you could take to abate those risks
  4. Put a “trigger date” on when those actions would have to be executed (to be effective)
  5. Decide how much the actions (if executed on the trigger dates) would reduce either/or the probability and the effect.
  6. Decide what contingency actions would need to be taken for any risks that were not effectively abated (it means those risks turned into real issues).
  7. Document all this as a Risk Abatement Plan and tie the trigger dates to your main Project Plan/Schedule.
  8. At EVERY Project Review confirm that every risk abatement action with trigger dates on or before the review date have been, or get executed.

In summary, going from a simple list of “risks” on a page to a proactive, actionable plan, tied to your project plan, will result in far fewer failed projects. I suggest it makes your project plan more than twice as likely to succeed.

To summarize all segments, IT Projects have had, and continue to have, a high failure rate. Many agree on a 60% rate of failure. Beyond fundamentals of knowledge and experience (and certification if you like) of project management methodologies, we believe paying attention to three key elements improve your chances of success. Applying Project Schedule Rigor, Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement will make you less likely to fall into the abyss failed IT Projects.

 

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.

CRITICAL ELEMENTS OF IT PROJECT SUCCESS (SEGMENT II OF III)

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

(Prior article – Segment 1 of 3)

To recap, in our first segment we talked about the critical project success element of Project Schedule Rigor. Now let’s talk about the second of the three — Proactive Resource Management. 

Proactive Resource Management means you have access to resource capacity, with the necessary skills, to deliver what you promised.  Then it’s all about managing the team of resources to complete all tasks. Of course managing also means successfully resolving challenges that could arise from poor estimation, resource churn, and even Murphy’s Law. Rather than assuming you’ll get the resources as planned, I suggest you use a three-step plan to get resources engaged. At an earlier employer I developed what was call a 30-60-90 day resource plan. Depending on the size and duration of your project you may break the steps into different durations. In this example resources we not all coming from local sources where onboarding was predictable. And the projects tended to be six months to 18 months in duration.

The “90” day was a long view of what resources would be needed, sometimes before every last detail was defined in terms of technology and technical skill needs. In a sense this represented a “soft allocation” of resources to the project. The number and general type of resources were defined, and all long lead time activities were started. These could include Visa filings, travel plans, local recruitment, and any specific training that was required.

The “60” day was a threshold by which the long view had been taken care of, and the details of technology and number of resources was firmly committed to. By 60 days you were making a “hard allocation”, or named resources, to the project. All long lead time activities had to have been completed, and any adjustments to resources types or numbers had to be resolved quickly. At this stage you needed to prepare to be ready to deploy these resources on the project within 30 days.

The “30” day was the threshold whereby within a 24-hour notice you must have the resource ready to deploy. This meant all remote resources coming onsite had to have visa, passport and flight ticket in hand. Resources that would be working remotely would have to have all onboarding completed (including training), and equipment and access provisioned and tested. All local resources (external and internal) has to be onboarded, trained and committed.

In tandem with proactively lining up resources, there are well-known challenges that you need to address. The list is long, so I’ll take advantage of a study completed by Entry Software, who is a recognized as an innovator in project manage software. Their study found the three most critical success factors that needed to be addressed includes:

  • Lack of information = lack of process and systems
  • Recalcitrant team members = cultural resistance
  • Unskilled project managers = skills development”

Entry found that by “… addressing these three success factors is critical” (to success).

In summary, managing resources on a project doesn’t start on project day zero. It starts in advance of the project launch date. In addition to managing proactively, it requires you address the critical areas of process and systems, cultural resistance, and skills development.

In the next segment well address the third and final critical element of IT project success — Proactive Risk Abatement. Check back for that.

 

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.

 

6 Reasons why you must have a Business App for your Company or Product

Why a business app?

With the constantly increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets, demand for mobile apps is on a rise. There can be many reasons for businesses to develop mobile apps and generate a smarter business model. Let us look at key points in a business app that can help your business grow in the right directions.

  1. Employee Engagement – Having a mobile business app for your work space can bring a lot of inter connectivity and increase rapport among employees. Apart from delegating work and keep record, it can become a social networking hub for all office personnel to connect to. You can host fun office activities, announce achievements, send birthday wishes to each other and basically explore many possibilities that bring everyone close and make them feel connected, thereby increasing productivity.
  2. Consumer Focused – Building a mobile business app for your product serves as an excellent catalyst in connecting you to your target audience and boosting the outputs of your business. The idea here is to build an app focused around the needs of your consumer. For example, if you are a travel agent you can create a ‘nearby attractions’ or ‘best places to see around’ app that gives you results based on your GPS location. You can also create apps that find cabs for your consumers, keeps record of the services you provide to them, generate bills at the end of service, initiate a compulsory review/ rating to get a proper customer feedback and build up a proper connection with your consumer. You can also break out from general norms and develop a game to showcase your skills or engage your audience. Using this factor, you can also increase the return rate of your customers.
  3. Task Management – Coordinating tasks on the go is a tough thing to achieve for most business owners. Sending emails for every single update is a thing of the past and creates major obstacles for employees to communicate with each other, in real time. Developing a business app takes care of this issue. An enterprise app can consist of a ‘Tasks’ section, that can let officials collaborate with tasks and access updates/ reports on the status, based on rank/ hierarchy. This keeps a log of everything that is going on in the office while helping you get much more worth out of your investment.
  4. Customer Support – Customer support is a key factor in helping your business grow in the right direction. Developing a business app for attending customer issues can take care of this matter in a proper way. Clients can post ‘Tickets’ i.e. issues in the form of a thread, which can be replied to by concerned officials. Over the last few years business apps have paved the way for solving bugs and follow up reports, implying the use of the said system.
  5. Apps and Games as Digital Assets – Developing business apps doesn’t limit it to its namely function. You can develop a business app in the form of digital products such as a social media based business app or perhaps an interactive game showcasing the most important aspects of your work. A single well developed business app can prove to be a highly valuable digital asset that showcases info-graphics, videos, slides, eBooks and so forth in an interactive way. This helps your brand name or company get more visibility in respective app stores and increase returns for your business investment.
  6. Mobile App Monetization – There are multiple reasons for you to invest in developing business apps. What most people seem to forget is how an enterprise app helps you monetize. Using native ads or in-app purchases your app can generate a steady if not significant revenue for your business. The greatest thing is, it won’t cost you anything extra at all. Invest once and earn forever.

 

The right way

Couple the discussed points with the assistance of expert app developers and your business is sure to land on top of the pool. In present times it is not just about developing a business app that delegates your tasks. What entrepreneurs and business managers should aim for is to develop an app that keeps all the branches of an execution plan connected to the single root of goals.

What Comes First, User Engagement Or Growth?

Engagement and growth are two very different things for a startup. Engagement, according to Nir Eyal, who writes about products that move people, is about creating an experience designed to connect a solution to the user’s problems with enough frequency to form a habit. Growth on the other hand is about getting people to discover your product through ripples that have been caused by your product.

Engagement is not growth and vice versa. However, there is an intrinsic link between the two that needs to be nurtured to achieve success in your startup. The starting point for any entrepreneur is in understanding what comes first, engagement or growth, and in focusing efforts on the right priority at the right time.

Move Away From What Feels Like The Right Thing To Do

For any startup, seeing the needle move on growth is more satisfying than searching for how you are engaging users. This is because you feel you are moving in the right direction and seeing tangible results to verify that. Tangible results in the early stage of a startup is something we all yearn, which is why we spend so much time refreshing our analytics screens when starting up!

However, prioritizing growth right out of the blocks at your startup is rife with dangers. Principally, any efforts expended to achieve growth, say of users through acquisition, is not likely to be sustainable. Unless you can ensure users will stay around and refer their friends to your product, any money you spend on scaling will lead to a commensurate increase in churn.

Conversely, engagement actually leads to growth and is a precursor for it. The goal is to keep new clients, not have to replace them month-on-month, and assessing engagement can shed light on how your strategy and decision-making needs to change. Engagement with users affords you the valuable opportunity to refine your product until users love it. Engagement is a tool that should be used by entrepreneurs to get to the “aha” moment. Once this Holy Grail is achieved, you can start focusing on your K factor.

When you’ve got users to love what you do, investing in user acquisition and other growth strategies makes more sense. This approach will ensure that new users coming on board also love what you have developed and act as ambassadors for your product to facilitate growth. High quality engagement leads to high quality growth. The opposite also holds true.

But engaging users as opposed to pushing for growth will seem counter-intuitive to many entrepreneurs despite it being the right approach. In order to carry it out successfully, entrepreneurs need to show a combination of discipline and patience.
Examples Of User Engagement Trumping Growth

You don’t have to look too hard to see that the startup superstar fraternity is littered with examples that prescribe to the view (in practice) of securing engagement before focusing efforts on growth.

Hadley Harris, founding general partner at ENIAC Ventures has previously written about how he believes one of the key differences between Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley (the New York tech scene) is the focus on growth in the Valley as opposed to on engagement in New York. Harris, who invests on the east and west coasts, comments that Silicon Valley startups are more concerned with quickly scaling huge user bases rather than building a real business. Examples he gives include Socialcam, Zynga and Google with Google+.

A good example of a startup that has got engagement credentials to share is Tumblr (acquired by Yahoo!). In a study that was done in collaboration with Millward Brown Digital and Added Value, survey respondents identified Tumblr as the most immersive and satisfying platform.

Another obvious example of engagement is Snapchat. Around the time it received its early funding in 2012, there was already a lot of buzz around how engaged its user base was. Since then, Snapchat has gone on to raise $1.2Bn in funding at a $15Bn pre-money valuation.

Other startups such as Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz and Nextdoor all focused on building their user base rather than on pure ‘growth’ that would later lead to monetization.

How To Engage Users For Growth

Accepting that engagement is the right characteristic to focus on in your startup, how can you go about getting this right? The key is learning what your users want and then giving them exactly that.

Massdrop is marketplace startup and an excellent case study on working with core users to shape and deliver your product or service. From very early on the team had direct contact with users on its site to determine what works and what doesn’t. In order to get the best deals for their users, they implemented bold initiatives with vendors and user, which led to short-term pain but longer-term gain with even more engagement.

In addition, product development at the company delivers excellent user response as users are heavily involved in developing new features. This example should be studied across your team to understand and appreciate how a patient and considered approach that places the user at the centre can work to deliver sustainable and real growth.

There are many other ways that can be adopted to extract the right value from your product or service in order to foster engagement such as allowing users to enjoy the experience for example. However it is important to stick true to the values of your own startup when trying initiatives to engage users. Sticking to your core demographic is good advice when trying to increase engagement. This is exactly what The Hunt did, intentionally appealing to young females and shunning what is not its core demographic.
Conclusion

Growth and the pursuit of growth in a startup is extremely seductive. However, unless that growth is a by-product of user engagement, you can expect that the growth will cost you more in the long-term than it delivers in the short-term and will put your business at huge risk. Building your startup from the bottom up and focusing on learning about your users to increase engagement will result in a company that delivers real value, and gives you the satisfaction of real movement on the growth needle.