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Avoiding IT project disasters

Tim Mendham | Aug. 13, 2013
Your initiatives are often the most expensive, high profile and high risk.

"There is a lot which goes behind making something seem simple. This is not always well understood. This can be a real cause of dissatisfaction between the system developers and the client/users."

The people
Whether executive champion or project implementation manager, everyone needs to be involved, communicated with and, where appropriate, managed with anticipated outcomes firmly fixed in mind. Project management is key in this process.

According to Vosila, an excellent project manager has command over both the science of project management (such as PMBOK, Gantt, scheduling, task management and documentation), as well as the art (collaboration, negotiation, mediation and 'solutioneering').

"For me, it's the art component that makes or breaks a successful project," he says. "It is imperative senior business leaders put significant skin in the game in such projects by assuming project sponsor, champion and manager roles — and through this, accountability.

"Non-IT business leaders often don't have the necessary project management skills to ensure the success of complex projects, which is why I resource such projects with a professional IT project manager to shadow the business project manager, assisting and guiding them through a successful methodology."

Central to this core of personnel are IT people, regardless of whether the project is characterised as "business" or "IT". Corcoran says every project should consciously consider an ICT interface, and have a commensurate level of engagement with ICT providers.

"Technology has become so intrinsic in our business and private lives that there would be a shrinking pool of projects which would not 'touch' ICT," he says.

"Poor, limited or late engagement with clients in these situations represents a real risk. Where policies or work programs develop in isolation from ICT specialists, or engagement occurs too late in the process, situations arise where individuals have become wedded to particular solutions which may not fit the operating environment of the organisation. Delays, cost blow-outs, or basic project failure can easily arise."

But Vosila gives a word of warning: Organisations whose projects fail to meet success criteria have often done so because they lack the right skill sets "In these cases, the organisations have tended not to resource projects with the 'staff you can least afford to assign to the project', which is what I strongly advocate," he says.

"It's these staff who will drive home a successful project. And guess what... the organisation will not fold if some of your key people are working full-time on an important business initiative for six months. The cemetery is full of indispensable people." And full of well-intentioned projects too.

Anatomy of a successful project
Dexus recently completed a project encompassing their own breed of activity based working known as "flexible working environment" (FWE). The technology component came in under budget and well within standard timeframes for such a project.


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