7 tips to safely kill zombie projects

7 tips to safely kill zombie projects

Summary: Walking-dead IT projects, also known as zombies, should be killed off -- putting these suckers out of their misery is the right thing to do. Of course, various techniques exist to repair failing projects, such as restart methodologies and live-goat sacrifice, which was pioneered by Nepal Airlines. Nonetheless, there are times when the zombies must die. Successfully killing one of these guys requires solid planning to avoid unexpected problems.

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TOPICS: CXO, Banking
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6 tips to safely kill zombie projects

Walking-dead IT projects, also known as zombies, should be killed off -- putting these suckers out of their misery is the right thing to do. Of course, various techniques exist to repair failing projects, such as restart methodologies and live-goat sacrifice, which was pioneered by Nepal Airlines. Nonetheless, there are times when the zombies must die.

Successfully killing one of these guys requires solid planning to avoid unexpected problems. Computer World columnist, Bart Perkins, has compiled a list of 7 issues to consider when terminating a zombie:

  1. Political fallout. Design a response to creatively mute the critics without being overly defensive.
  2. Associated expenses. Canceling a project can result in considerable expense. Be prepared to discuss the financial repercussions with your CFO and CEO.
  3. Unexpected behavior. Canceling a project can lead to unanticipated (and sometimes undesirable) behavior. One company[for example]...reduced the size of the project team, making it impossible for the remaining members to complete the project. The company...skirted the boundaries of ethical financial reporting.
  4. Supplier relationships. Project cancellations affect your suppliers, too, and will seriously damage your working relationships. Trying to wiggle out of your contractual agreements may result in litigation.
  5. Lost business opportunity. Whenever a project is killed, the associated business opportunity is lost (or, at best, postponed). Be sure to evaluate the long-term business impact during the decision-making process.
  6. Morale. Project teams can become emotionally invested in a project's success. If the project is eliminated, morale can suffer. Enlist your company's communications department to minimize fallout.
  7. Media coverage. The permanence of blogs, wikis and archives (combined with comprehensive search capabilities) make it easy to keep a story alive forever. It is increasingly important to deal with employee complaints openly, fairly, and in a timely and straightforward manner.

Bart raises good points obviously born from experience in the field. While this list is hardly comprehensive, it'll give you a head start successfully killing your next zombie.

Topics: CXO, Banking

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4 comments
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  • learn to count before you start

    If you are going to take drastic action, it helps to get the facts right first. Proclaiming six tips then giving seven would be just the sort of thing that would get your move defeated.
    keithc
    • No kidding

      Thanks for pointing this out - I changed the title to reflect seven items in the list.
      mkrigsman@...
  • RE: 6 tips to safely kill zombie projects

    Be sure to have the right tools when killing zombie projects: http://zombietools.net
    ZombieTools
  • RE: 6 tips to safely kill zombie projects

    Interesting Zombie projects and the pictorial representation in a hospital - interesting when you consider how much money $20bn and more has been spent on a UK National Health Care IT project. The report http://www.e-health-insider.com/news/6027/nhs_bury_yet_to_sign-off_on_lorenzo from the North of England. It talks of missed milestones but shows something of their attempt to at least be understood for the efforts to bring part of the project into use.
    GreenMilo