Ensuring Project Success
succeed if they
PROJECT PLANS SOMETIMES GO OFF THE RAILS. That’s always been the case, and with the perfection of the human race nowhere on the horizon, it will remain true. But we can reduce the number of projects that fail.
Bart Perkins is
at Louisville, Ky.-based Leverage
Partners, which helps
well in IT. Contact
him at BartPerkins@
While many factors affect project success, failed
projects often stem from flawed plans that don’t
address basic constraints. When it comes to IT,
plans must account for constraints in these areas:
Specialized skills. Plans must consider the
availability of high-demand skills. One Fortune
500 retailer intended to rebuild almost every
application in its portfolio. Initially, the plan appeared aggressive but achievable. Deeper analysis
revealed significant staffing flaws. Nine key people
(including architects and project managers) were
each assigned full time to more than one project.
Avoid this by checking staff availability against
other project commitments, even if specialized
skills are required for just a limited time. This
sounds obvious, but it’s too often ignored.
Culture. Plans must accommodate an organization’s distinctive culture. A global enterprise with
hundreds of small, autonomous offices failed to
address field office independence when rolling out a
corporate help desk. Field offices, which had always
relied on overworked but responsive local IT staffers,
saw no value in the new help desk and disregarded it.
Finally, this culture of autonomy was acknowledged
and addressed by giving local IT staffs the power
to decline requests if the problems had not been
reported to the global help desk. Project planners
ignore organizational culture at their peril.
Delivery capability. Every IT organization has
limitations imposed by infrastructure. One Fortune
500 food manufacturer decided to switch from a
direct sales force to brokers, while simultaneously
changing both its product mix and its credit terms.
Unfortunately, its homegrown systems were old,
inflexible and poorly documented. The planning
team refused to include IT improvements, despite
IT’s protests. All changes were implemented
concurrently, overwhelming the I T systems as pre-
dicted. Unable to take orders or ship products for
six weeks, the company nearly went out of business.