Readers of this blog know IT initiatives generally fail for business, organizational, or cultural reasons. Sure, technology screw-ups occur all the time, but that's one of the realities to be managed. Success or failure ultimately depends on how project leadership manages the full range of technical- and non-technical issues.
Blogger and enterprise architect, Mike Kavis, who's obviously been through some battles, has created ten guidelines describing critical areas of weakness in many projects:
- Poor Communication. Enterprise projects usually impact a large amount of people. This requires constant communications to all levels of people throughout the organization. A strong communication strategy can help with this.
- Underestimating or ignoring impact of change. This is another way of saying poor change management. People need to know WIIFM (what's in it for me). Resistance to change can kill any project. Your initiative must have a champion who carries a lot of clout.
- Lack of Leadership. IT Leadership requires excellence in three key areas: Technology, Business, and People. If the leadership is missing any of the three components you are doomed.
- Lack of strong executive sponsorship. For these projects to succeed you must have somebody high up in the organization with a lot of clout.
- Poor project management. Often, large enterprise initiatives have a ton of logistics that need to be identified and managed accordingly.
- Poor Planning. This could also fall into a category of unrealistic expectations. Initiatives like SOA require a well thought out strategy. Many IT shops do not have the patience for this and rush into their project head first without a clue of how to actually accomplish their goals.
- Trying to do it cheap. Organizations want it all, but they don't want to invest the time and money. I have seen many projects get completed using this strategy, but they almost always run over budget, are late, are missing many features, and have many various quality or process issues due to the quick-n-dirty approach.
- Lack of technical knowledge. You wouldn't ask me to remove your appendix so why would you have somebody with little or no knowledge of the technology at hand lead your enterprise initiative.
- Lack of sound business case. You can get all of the other issues right but if your solution has no business context then you are wasting your time.
- Poor vendor management. Somebody hires a high priced group of consultants and let's them run wild. You should make sure that what they build meets your requirements, your standards, your needs, and your timelines.
Whenever I blog this kind of list, some commenters invariably say the whole thing is obvious common sense and therefore not worth consideration. If so, then why do so many projects fail precisely due to items on this list? Complex projects are hard to get right, which is why IT failure remains a serious issue.
Successful leaders create project success on the foundation of skillfully managing people, process, and technology. While this perspective may appear obvious, the experience and wisdom needed to make IT projects successful is not common at all.