Let's talk about running successful IT projects in 2009. This discussion is more important than ever, because IT problems remain common, with some estimates suggesting 68% of projects fail. Despite staggering odds, follow these five strategies to reach the IT pot of gold.
1. Meet business needs. Every IT project must accomplish a business goal or risk becoming a wasteful boondoggle. Poor communication between business and technology groups complicates this simple concept inside many organizations. If the business side routinely criticizes your IT team, get together and ask them for guidance. While isolation brings failure, discussion is a true harbinger of success. Conversation with the business is the right place to begin an IT improvement program for 2009.
2. Innovate. Conversations with the business should help both sides work together with greater creativity and flexibility. Adaptability is fundamental to survival, especially in tough economic times, so being ready to accept change is prerequisite for success. Although listening carefully to user requirements is the first step, being self-critical as an organization is also necessary. Great things happen when IT embraces a culture of continuous change and improvement.
3. Be honest. Denial is the handmaiden of failure and a leading cause of project death. Change is impossible until a team accurately recognizes its own weaknesses. Having done so, the team can take remedial measures that shore up weaknesses and support strengths. Objective self-appraisal is the hardest item on this list to accomplish; few organizations do this well.
4. Align vendors. Virtually all projects involve the IT Devil's Triangle: the customer, technology vendor, and services provider. As I have previously written, "These groups have interlocking, and often conflicting, agendas that drive many projects toward failure." Given the great importance of these relationships, success depends on managing the vendors to your advantage. Use contractual incentives and penalties to ensure external vendors operate with your best interests in mind.
5. Arrange sponsorship. Many IT initiatives go across political boundaries within an organization. For these reasons, gaining consensus among participants and stakeholders is sometimes hard. Since problems inevitably arise, a strong executive sponsor is a critical success factor on all large projects. Make sure the sponsor fully understands his or her role and is committed to active participation. The best sponsors care passionately about the project's goals. Conversely, sponsors who don't play an appropriate advocacy role when needed can kill an otherwise healthy project.
These five points cover relationships between IT and its environment, which includes internal stakeholders and external partners. It also addresses culture and process, bringing together essential ingredients to overcome many problems that plague IT.
What do you think is the best path to achieving successful IT in 2009?