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IT project success rates finally improving

Sharon Florentine | Feb. 28, 2017
After years of stagnating IT project success rates, a new survey from PMI shows that rates are finally on the rise.

"We're seeing this as a macro trend -- in the past, organizations might only think about benefits maturation and realization once the project had closed! But now, we see they're looking at that from the beginning and using that as a measure of success or failure," Langley says.

Much of that shift is a result of digital convergence, says Patrick Tickle, chief product officer at work and resource management solutions company Planview. Over the last few years, the lines between business and IT have blurred, and projects have become increasingly cross-functional, he says.

Digital driver

"Digital convergence is collapsing the gap between business and IT. For so many years, we talked about how to better align IT with strategic business goals, and now it's just a fact of life. That forces IT -- and companies' PMO [project management office] -- to emphasize planning and prioritization, which helps them succeed with the projects that are truly important," Tickle says.

"It's a bit anecdotal, but the buzz around planning and prioritization has increased just in the last couple years, and I see that when I talk to clients and customers -- both those who are using our products and those that are using other suites; another thing I'm seeing is that organizations are slashing the number of projects they're taking on, to focus more intently on those that will have the greatest impact and ROI," Tickle says.

Instead of trying to stretch resources and budgets to take on, say, 75 projects, Tickle says, he's seeing organizations scale that back to the most important 30 or 45 projects, which improves their chances of success.

The PMI research also identifies a number of factors common to the Champion organizations, says Langley. Besides a focus on benefits realization, champion organizations are more likely to focus on project management talent, have at least one PMO within their organization, drive executive sponsorship and use agile approaches to project management, the research revealed.


Thirty-two percent of survey respondents consider both technical and leadership skills a high priority -- a 3 percent increase over last year, according to the research. Developing technical, leadership and business skills for project managers is a key strategy for Champion organizations, Langley says.

"The most successful organizations are more likely to focus on developing all aspects of their talent's potential. That means, in addition to IT and technical skills, emphasizing leadership skills negotiation and conflict resolution skills, strategic and business management skills and understanding digital convergence. Project managers must understand how a project is aligned to the market, to the needs of customers, to the needs of the business and what constraints there are on that," Langley says.


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