There is no worse person to be than the project manager at the end of a failed project. As an IT
project manager, I have experienced that feeling and I can tell you it’s not nice. IT projects are
particularly difficult to manage. In fact there really aren’t any IT projects, just projects that have
elements of IT in them.
Thetrouble with these projects is that often you are doing something that hasn’t been done before, is
unproven or cutting edge. Customers expect a good result not excuses, even though these projects
are frequently a journey into the unknown. If we take the construction industry, building a new bridge
for instance, we have been building bridges for hundreds of years and know how to do it. Weunderstand how things are going to happen, in what order and the expected result. This is rarely the
case with IT projects.
Avoiding the common pitfalls of IT project management is not rocket science, it is simply a case of
taking some sensible measures. Identified here are five killer mistakes of project management:
Who Owns the Project?
The nature of projects is change and changeoften encounters resistance. People don’t like change so
they need to know it is necessary and what benefits it will bring. In order for a project to deliver
change it needs the backing of senior management. Without it the project will proceed very slowly.
The sponsor (senior management) is the person that drives the change forward and the project is the
mechanism for change. A project withoutsupport from senior management will struggle.
Make sure you have the top down backing from senior management. There must be direct
communication from the sponsor to the stakeholders. The message must be, “we are serious, this
thing is going to happen so you are either with us or you are not” and beware those that are not.
Be careful as project manager to make sure the sponsordoes not take the project over and become
the de-facto project manager.
Getting Users Involved
Lack of user input and involvement is the recipe for a bad project. This can either be because of the
“we know what you want” mentality from the IT department or lack of interest from the customer.
Either way it must be avoided.
The IT department must take time tounderstand the customers requirements before proposing any
technical solution. Often IT is blinded by the latest, newest thing available and try to shoehorn the
requirements into it. On the other hand, customers must devote the time and effort necessary to
ensure a successful project by interacting with the IT department and making sure all requirements
have been fully defined. Ensure you havespoken to all stakeholders to gathered their requirements
and that they continue to work with you for the duration of the project.
Successful Projects - It’s Not Rocket Science
Stopping Scope Creep
Scope creep is the cause of more project failures than anything else. Not knowing exactly what a
project is aiming to deliver or setting off in a fit of enthusiasm but littleelse, is a recipe for failure.
Ensure that the business case, requirements and scope are clearly defined and documented. Make
sure the stakeholders understand them and sign them off. Stick rigidly to the scope and if changes are
required then put them through a change management process where they are documented, justified
and then agreed.
Often there is an expectation that IT is like a magic wand you wave and suddenly a miracle occurs.
During a technology project expectations can inflate to a ridiculous degree. It is the role of the project
manager to manage expectations to a sensible level.
One way to avoid this is to break a project into smaller pieces or phases. I equate this to a sausage