What is the chance of success for your next IT Project?

Han Solo on IT Project Management

Despite improvements to project management methodologies, techniques and collaboration software in recent years, the failure rates of IT projects are still comparatively high.

Before embarking on any project that will have major impacts on organisational operations it is imperative that key stakeholders understand:

  • Where the organisation is now.

  • What are the key drivers for change.

  • Are these key drivers aligned with business goals supported by management.

  • Where should the organisation be at the end of the project.

This is potentially easier said than done as people may have different opinions on these points depending on their previous experience, attitude to change and vested interests.

Often times when starting a project, management may not know exactly what they want or need.  Understanding key project drivers allows developers to ask questions that can crystalise and prioritise requirements and reduce vagueness in scope.


The Good

Agile programming techniques (eg. SCRUM, XP, etc) have gone some way to try and address these issues through the use of short iterative development cycles focusing on high priority requirements, short targeted daily meetings and an acceptance of change throughout the project.

In recent years there has been an explosion of cloud computing team collaboration and project management software eg. JIRA, Basecamp, Sharepoint, Wrike, etc, that has also helped improve stakeholder communication throughout the project life cycle.


The Bad   

When scope is vague it is likely as the project progresses that different stakeholders will have a different understanding of what will be delivered.  Unlike a set of building plans where everyone can conceptualise the final product prior to starting, end users often have difficulty understanding abstract computer system models.  This often means that the project journey starts with incomplete information about the final destination.


The Ugly

This can have flow effects if the project is put out to tender.  If the scope is not clearly defined or is ambiguous, suppliers have the potential to minimise initial project cost estimates knowing that as the project continues, more refined requirements will be considered changes and thereby added to the project cost as variations.

Due to the intangible nature of system development it is difficult to change suppliers if the project goes off course.  This can have devastating impacts on an organisation if costs blow out significantly or the project is completed with a reduced scope.


IT Project Success Factors

  • Understanding the business goals and key drivers for change.

  • Management buy-in.

  • Have as clearly defined scope as possible.

  • Documented change management procedures.

  • Documented conflict resolution procedures.

  • Excellent stakeholder communication.

  • Build in a cost contingency depending on project risk and complexity.

  • IT Supplier expertise, track record and commitment.

Technology changes will continue to impact organisational opportunities to streamline and improve operational effectiveness.  Ensuring your project leaders understand your business goals will give you the greatest chance of success.


Mark Stonebridge

Freelance Professional

Bridge the Gap between Business and IT


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