Given the ubiquity of failed IT projects, let's close 2007 with my list of five tips that guarantee successful projects in 2008:
1. Build a business case
The business case must rigorously state why the project is necessary, how it supports organizational goals, and describe the resources required to achieve those goals. If your business case can't stand up to careful scrutiny and evaluation, then it's highly likely the project will experience significant downstream problems. We hear a lot these days about "aligning" IT with the business. A solid business case accomplishes this goal, establishing a solid foundation for success from the start.
2. Engage stakeholders early and often
Enterprise IT projects usually involve three groups : the IT department, business and financial stakeholders, and end-users. While the project is being planned, ensure that:
- The technical aspects are approved by IT
- The financial and business folks are convinced the project is worthwhile
- End-users agree the project meets their needs
Failing to gain support from any one of these groups puts an IT project at serious risk.
3. Ensure strong executive sponsorship
Even after achieving buy-in from the three key stakeholder groups, strong leadership is a decisive success factor. While these groups may share overlapping goals, disagreements and conflict can occur as the project progresses, especially when priorities and resource allocations need mid-stream adjustments. A strong executive sponsor brings consensus to the team, preventing organizational gridlock or “management by committee.”
4. Manage vendors wisely
IT projects often involve extensive interaction with software vendors, consultants, training providers, and other external resources. If third-party relationships are not managed well, even the strongest in-house team may have trouble concluding the project successfully.
When managing both technology and service providers state your expectations clearly. For example, if you want particular milestones to be achieved by specific dates, put that expectation in writing. Also, be sure to talk with vendors about their expectations of you. Success comes from partnership, rather than conflict, with vendors.
5. Embrace and plan for change
Most large-scale technology projects involve transforming how parts of an organization work. This change can disrupt existing workflow processes and cause end-user morale problems. Recognize that change is difficult and allocate sufficient time and resources to help users with the transition. Don't consider change management and user education to be optional add-ons; they are essential ingredients for project success.
I've enjoyed writing this blog in 2007 and want to thank you for reading. May 2008 bring you many successful IT projects!