I recently read an article in the Toronto Star titled "IT Projects Are Ticking Time Bombs."
The article cited a study at Oxford University where they found that 17 percent of IT projects were so mismanaged that they had "average cost overruns of 200 per cent...."
After reading the article, I spent some time thinking about the IT projects I've been involved in over the years, from the large, multimillion dollar SAP projects to the smaller, 5-15 user Dynamics GP projects. I've had my share of smooth go-lives and my share of "rough" projects. One common theme with the projects that run smoothly is that an unbreakable link exists between the project team and their vision of what they're working on and the overall business goals for the project.
It's somewhat human nature, really. If we understand the "why" of what we're doing, then the "what" and "how" are easier to understand and "get behind." I've seen projects with great potential and a really strong business case go off the rails because the executives didn't effectively communicate to the project team what the real goal was. If the project team and leaders have "context" by which to understand the purpose behind the project, the odds of success rise dramatically.
There are obviously numerous other factors that affect the outcome of an IT project (which I've written about in the past), but I come back to executive involvement and leadership as the #1 factor in project success.
I've even seen "rough" projects continue off the rails for months and even years until a new executive comes on board in the company to "take charge" and rally the troops around fixing the problems that exist. In fact, it amazes me every time how rapidly the issues actually get resolved, once a strong leader puts their weight behind identifying the problems and assigning clear accountability for their resolution.
One of the things I look for when selling software to a new prospect is a strong leader. We even had a Client executive bring his entire team to our office this week just to "see the whites of our eyes" and have his team meet ours before moving forward with us. To me, that's a sign of a strong leader who understands what it takes to deliver a successful IT project.
So perhaps some IT projects are ticking time bombs, but all bombs can be diffused by the right person with the right tools and attitude.
Andrew King is a Senior Partner with WebSan Solutions Inc. WebSan Solutions Inc. is a Toronto based Microsoft Dynamics Certified Partner with a focus on achieving significant business benefit for Professional Services, Manufacturing and Distribution companies.