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Seven Reasons IT Projects Fail

Avoiding these pitfalls will help ensure success

Avoiding these pitfalls will help ensure success
Illustration by Jude Buffum

2. Insufficient Communication

Objective status reports, frequent contact with sponsors and business users, and involvement of such external parties as the hardware vendor are crucial to avoiding the communication breakdowns that can derail IT projects.

Simple actions matter, such as organized agendas, minutes, action items and information-push emails. Agendas force the project manager running the meeting to organize the time and supply preliminary materials. The thinking and preparation that goes into creating the agenda are more important than the agenda itself. Also, mix up the way the message is delivered, especially for executive reviews. Using the same status presentation repeatedly might be an efficient method, but it could also be missing necessary diversity to keep executives interested in the story behind the status.

3. Ineffective Management

Sidestep this pitfall by proactively managing changing objectives, goals and risks, coordinating efforts between the technology and finance departments, and measuring performance.

Implement a straightforward change-management process with estimating and approval steps. This should be a lightweight process, but one that also allows management to understand the impact of changing requirements on the project. Utilize a risk-management assessment tool to uncover risks that must be addressed during and after the project. Enlist a finance representative on the team and formalize a business case. Lastly, identify discrete performance measurements, like planned and actual task starts and completes, and include them in the status reporting.

4. Failure to Align With Constituents and Stakeholders

Building understanding and trust with constituents and stakeholders is essential to a successful outcome, particularly when these groups are in different organizations and might have varied measurements and motivations.

For greater alignment, target specific initiatives to ensure interlock and communication with stakeholders. This can be done through input-gathering meetings, communication to push information and activities to get sign-offs on work products. Early in the IT project, it’s useful to have at least one face-to-face meeting with key stakeholders and team members. A well-planned kickoff meeting, where relationships are developed, will support the project in later months.

Joseph Gulla is the IT leader of Alazar Press, an imprint of Royal Swan Enterprises. Previously, he was an executive IT specialist at IBM ending his 28-year career with the company in August 2012.

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