Here at the Deck Chairs blog, we hear about lots of project flame-outs. Sometimes, the stories are hard to believe, and we say to ourselves, "It just can’t be."
That’s why it’s nice to see someone thinking about the conditions that result in software implementation success. An odd concept I know, but even the most elusive goal can sometimes be attained.
Today, Rob Goodling from IBM wrote about this in the IT Service Management blog. He says that the following are critical project success factors (the bullets are direct quotes from his blog entry):
- Executive Support – Perhaps the most critical and obvious. Almost all implementations hits bumps along the way, so consistent support is a must. The tougher question is “who are the stakeholders?” Remember that ITSM is about improving service to business. If you don’t have the support of business, you’re project is likely at risk.
- User Involvement — Too many ITSM implementations begin with some ITIL experts in a room developing their idealized process model. Unfortunately, this Ivory Tower exercise is often a waste of time (see Standardized Infrastructure below) and misdirected. Early effort should be directed to working with users to understand how processes currently work, gather change recommendations, and measure the ability of the organization to implement those changes.
- Experienced Project Management – ITIL certifications do not equate to experienced project management. Make sure you have project management that has been through an ITSM implementation before and understands more than process. Seek external, professional help if you can’t meet these criteria internally.
- Clear Business Objectives – Don’t fall into a trap here. “Implement change management” is not a clear business objective. It is really just a means to the end of improving the service provided to business. Any project must have measurable goals for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of IT services to risk becoming irrelevant and failing.
- Minimized Scope – This is critical. Just about every successful ITSM project I have heard of starts by implementing an achievable, manageable set of business objectives and their supporting processes.
- Standardized Infrastructure – At first blush, this may seem to have more to do with software development than process implementation. Think again! The old rule of thumb is that an application is about 80% infrastructure and only 20% new code. The Chaos Study indicates that virtually all projects that create infrastructure are doomed to failure because it is an inefficient use of resources.
- Formalized Methodology – Yes, ITIL is a formalized collection of best practices observed in the IT industry, but it is infamously quiet on implementation guidance. If you haven’t already considered it, look into industry models like CMMI or leverage a consultant with proven services for assessing your organizations needs and ability to change, and for developing realistic implementation roadmaps.
- Reliable Estimates — “We’re changing a few processes, how hard could that be?” The short answer is “very”. Change is always hard. The Chaos Study has shown that the average IT project has a 63% time overrun and a 45% budget overrun. Bottom line: make sure your staff remains optimistic, but keep your project estimates realistic and conservative.