Let's face it, project failure is non-discriminatory. It pretty much affects all sectors in equal measure, but in the IT and telecoms industry the statistics are particularly grim. The Chaos Report by the Standish Group reported a 70 per cent failure rate for IT projects, which is even more alarming when you consider that its definition of failure is 100 per cent overrun on time or budget.
With global spending on software, hardware and services to support tomorrow's networked digital world a multi-trillion dollar industry, financial losses from overruns and failed projects are staggering. The cost is not just the money wasted on the project but also the knock on effects of lost business, lower stock value, fines and compensation.
In my experience, most IT project failures are down to massive overruns, caused by poor scoping and requirements capture at the outset. Many companies chronically underestimate the cost of running a project or how long realistically it will take to deliver. Scope creep exacerbates the problem as organisations fail to appreciate the time and money required to deal with additional requirements. Vendors and integrators are also to blame when they don't communicate and set expectations correctly.
I believe project failure doesn't have to be an inevitable fact of IT life. But ensuring it isn't means looking for some key attributes in your providers. Pre-testing for example can increase the likelihood of success of a project. In the networking industry, for example, we think it's essential to be able to build and road test a customer's network before it's delivered. Redstone does this through an established pre-testing facility meaning that all customer installations have gone through the rigours of normal use before they get to site.
While technology is frequently not the problem, neither is it the whole solution. What's also critical are people. The human factor is key such as good communication, realism, honesty and creating trust with your employees, other project staff and with the customer.
Project failure happens all too often, but as an industry we must not become desensitised to it. Today's constrained IT budgets simply won't tolerate it - and neither should we. See some of my tips for a successful project delivery below:
- Select competent and experienced project managers
- Define goals and scope clearly
- Build trust with clients and staff
- Listen carefully, communicate effectively
- Ensure adequate resources are allocated to the project
- Ensure end-users are consulted and kept up to date
- Don't take anything on trust - get onsite and check
- Look where contractors don't want you to and only believe it when you can see it
- Minimise and monitor scope creep