Project failure is an issue that seems to dog IT like no other. Be it government or private sector business, project failure has an enormous impact, costing billions of dollars every year. Too often, folks ignore the signs of imminent failure until there’s nothing left to do but put a project out of its misery. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this list of early warning signs to help you recognize and address the problems before catastrophic failure occurs.
Additional Resources The IT Business Edge Knowledge Network offers the following free resources to aid in your project management initiatives.
- Project Management Templates Workbook
- Project Management Toolkit
- Project Management Fundamentals
- Master Project Management Checklist Template
- Project Management Guidebook
Click through for early warning signs to help you recognize and address problems before catastrophic failure occurs.
Project criteria, roles, processes and outcomes must be established and actively monitored to aid in project success. Governance must be accepted and supported by all levels of management.
Territorial road blocks can quickly destroy a project. Open communication and a focus on the project’s overall value to the company are essential.
Ann All suggests saving the geek-speak for your tech buddies and using terms the business can understand and appreciate. Instead of dwelling on the technological capabilities of XML, for instance, emphasize the improved integration with clients and partners and other benefits that should result from using it. Additionally, IT folks need to try to hear and really understand what business users tell them.
If project expectations are ambiguous in any way, what was initially seen as a small piece of work could become huge, taking up valuable time and resources. It is necessary to fully outline all stakeholder requirements at the start of the project. Whether the requirements were to install a new IT system, build a bridge or implement new processes, your project needs to produce solutions that meet these requirements 100 percent.
According to Nigel Hughes, global director of Market and Service Development, project ‘plans are based not on facts, but on assumptions and opinions, both about the existing state and about the objectives for change. And those assumptions and opinions often don’t hold up as the project progresses, the environment changes, and the potential benefits become lost in the shuffle.’
He suggests that project analysis should include basic metrics such as ‘cost efficiency,productivity, cycle time, error rates, and so forth. It’s [also] critical to incorporate scenario modeling into the initial pre-project analysis, so that you can evaluate different options and extrapolate the implications of different courses of action over time, and then select the option that’s most realistic and that yields the optimal benefit. In other words, you need to not only manage the project efficiently and make sure it delivers results, you need to make sure the project you’ve chosen in the first place is the right one for the business. Finally, the metrics need to be tied back to the business objectives so that, as the project is implemented, you’re tracking and quantifying the benefits as they’re delivered.’
Gaining insight from heretofore-untapped internal resources is essential for creating a project plan that encompasses all aspects of the business. Without that input, tools and processes can be developed that are incomplete or even unnecessary.
Maintaining a firm grasp on all the ins and outs of a complex project can be a daunting task for even the seasoned project manager if they don’t have the right tracking tools at hand. This spreadsheet from Method123 helps project managers keep track of major project items (milestones, change requests, costs, risks, etc.) by organizing them into clearly defined categories.
Key changes in project personnel can be hugely disruptive to project progress. It is essential that all aspects of the project are well documented and up-to-date. One tool that can help is the cross-function flowchart provided by Michael Taylor and available from our IT Downloads. The cross-functional flowchart provides a simple visual representation of how key stakeholders, the project manager, project teams and subcontractors collaborate.
Project managers eat, sleep and breathe schedules, but must be on the lookout from the very beginning for preventable situations in which the project managers have been saddled with an unrealistic schedule because their management already committed the schedule to their own management. To compensate, more workers are usually added to the project, but adding more people to satisfy an unrealistic schedule will not solve the problem.
Even when an IT project is ‘done,’ it’s not over, and neither are the associated costs. Regularly assess projects to ensure that they still satisfy business needs and are on their way to success. As part of these assessments, companies should find a business owner who can substantiate the value, suggests Mike Sisco, president of MDE Enterprises, an IT management and consulting company. He says: “If I can’t find that, I’m going to cancel it, even if it’s 60 percent done.”
It’s imperative for project managers to know exactly what skills and expertise each member of the project team possesses from the outset. The Project Knowledge Area Self-Assessment spreadsheet available in our IT Downloads helps project managers capture these details in order to “quickly identify any knowledge gaps or single points of failure.”