Technology projects bare a striking similarity to home renovations. Both are surrounded by wildly high hopes at the start and often end up causing financial and emotional heartache. There are some new numbers to back up the unfortunate reality that many projects simply don’t deliver as expected. 49 percent of organizations have suffered from budget overruns on IT projects and 62 percent have experienced schedule delays, according to a new report by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), an IT consulting firm based in Mumbai, India.
The study, which surveyed 800 organizations in the United States, Europe and Asia, also found that 47 percent of respondents have experienced higher-than-expected maintenance costs and 41 percent said IT projects failed to deliver the expected business value and ROI.
In short, IT projects are a chronic disappointment.
It’s hardly news that technology projects are rarely on time and within budget, but the question remains: what more can be done? We thought it was worth taking a look at why projects are so likely to fall behind and where IT leaders and project managers could improve their performance—and therefore the likelihood of successfully completing a project with minimal cost and schedule delays.
Baseline created the list below with the help of Kent Crawford, CEO of PM Solutions, a project-management consulting firm based in Havertown, PA, Bob Laliberte, an analyst with Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Research, and Michael McCabe, a spokesperson for TCS.
1. 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. You should be spending the bulk of your time talking to and corresponding with project constituents – your team, the stakeholders, vendors, consultants and key end-users. The “soft” skill of communication is integral to project success.
2. Plan and define as much as possible—but don’t go overboard
A key component of project management is the thorough and meticulous planning of every aspect of a project, but 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.
Project managers are increasingly using rapid project deployments and iterative models that have been successful in the software development world. These models are based on the principle that in some ways it’s better to start the project and see what you’re up against.
3. Manage scope creep—for real
Like a turkey on Thanksgiving, you can 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. With the increasing complexity of data centers and the Pandora’s box of surprises once you get under the hood, it’s advisable to game out and document the potential sources of scope creep. For instance, the team may want to take a different approach than planned, management may want to change, add or expand the deliverables or you may uncover a technical aspect you didn’t know existed.
4. Don’t be lazy with risk management
If you need 200 servers delivered at the same time for a worldwide mail server upgrade, it’s not enough to know what the risk is if the vendor doesn’t deliver. It’s time to 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 if only 20 severs aren’t delivered on time instead of 200.
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