Failed IT projects happen all the time, often to the amazement of participants who think they're somehow immune to IT problems. In my experience, most failures are caused by shortsightedness, complexity on both business and technical sides, and poor management. Anyhow, there are certain steps a project leader can take to reduce the likelihood of failure.
Here's a list of 8 tips to prevent your IT project from going down the tubes, as compiled by Baseline magazine:
- Get your head out of the software. Most project managers spend too much time in their project-planning applications and not enough time doing the briefing and communicating for which they are solely responsible.
- Plan and define as much as possible—but don't go overboard. A perfectionist could spend all his or her time in the planning stage. There's no way to anticipate every variable so at some point, you have to pull the trigger.
- Manage scope creep—for real. Rely on the fact that the project you think you're heading for may bare only a passing resemblance to the one you end up with.
- Don't be lazy with risk management Manage the risk by deciding ahead of time that, as reliable as your vendor has been in the past, there's little margin for error. Going with two or three vendors might be more complicated but in the end, it may save your project.
- Get a grip on expectations. Ask vendors and consultants for the best, most likely and worst-case scenarios and then use your own resources to calculate the aggregated risk so you can determine the probable outcome.
- Govern with strength. To the degree you can, refer to the approaches you documented and discussed with your team. If planned properly, your team should be able to tackle the problems early on before they become major hindrances.
- Prepare for intervention. Create an intervention plan before the project starts and communicate the plan to everyone directly and indirectly involved.
- Drive behavior to use the technology. Make sure you have a hand in educating and training users.
These tips present a basic set of good practices for project managers. Remember, however, there's a big gap between tips on a page and real, honest to goodness execution. The theory is fine, but ultimately the project leader must assert control of the project and manage accordingly.
Far too often, stakeholders view the project manager as a convenient scapegoat on whom to place responsibility when things go wrong. Proper planning, combined with decisive assertion of best practices, is the best way for project managers to prevent this from happening.