Leadership

Five strategies for 2009 IT gold

Michael Krigsman offers strategies that will help your IT projects be successful this year. The five points cover relationships between IT and its environment, as well as address culture and process.

This is a guest post from Michael Krigsman of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Michael on his ZDNet blog IT Project Failures, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Let's talk about running successful IT projects in 2009. This discussion is more important than ever, because IT problems remain common, with some estimates suggesting 68% of projects fail. Despite staggering odds, follow these five strategies to reach the IT pot of gold.

1. Meet business needs. Every IT project must accomplish a business goal or risk becoming a wasteful boondoggle. Poor communication between business and technology groups complicates this simple concept inside many organizations. If the business side routinely criticizes your IT team, get together and ask them for guidance. While isolation brings failure, discussion is a true harbinger of success. Conversation with the business is the right place to begin an IT improvement program for 2009. 2. Innovate. Conversations with the business should help both sides work together with greater creativity and flexibility. Adaptability is fundamental to survival, especially in tough economic times, so being ready to accept change is prerequisite for success. Although listening carefully to user requirements is the first step, being self-critical as an organization is also necessary. Great things happen when IT embraces a culture of continuous change and improvement. 3. Be honest. Denial is the handmaiden of failure and a leading cause of project death. Change is impossible until a team accurately recognizes its own weaknesses. Having done so, the team can take remedial measures that shore up weaknesses and support strengths. Objective self-appraisal is the hardest item on this list to accomplish; few organizations do this well. 4. Align vendors. Virtually all projects involve the IT Devil's Triangle: the customer, technology vendor, and services provider. As I have previously written, "These groups have interlocking, and often conflicting, agendas that drive many projects toward failure." Given the great importance of these relationships, success depends on managing the vendors to your advantage. Use contractual incentives and penalties to ensure external vendors operate with your best interests in mind. 5. Arrange sponsorship. Many IT initiatives go across political boundaries within an organization. For these reasons, gaining consensus among participants and stakeholders is sometimes hard. Since problems inevitably arise, a strong executive sponsor is a critical success factor on all large projects. Make sure the sponsor fully understands his or her role and is committed to active participation. The best sponsors care passionately about the project's goals. Conversely, sponsors who don't play an appropriate advocacy role when needed can kill an otherwise healthy project.

These five points cover relationships between IT and its environment, which includes internal stakeholders and external partners. It also addresses culture and process, bringing together essential ingredients to overcome many problems that plague IT.

What do you think is the best path to achieving successful IT in 2009?

5 comments
Viswanath.reddyk
Viswanath.reddyk

None of the strategies deal with the skill set of the project team and effective management of the team which also lead to project failure.

andyjackson1
andyjackson1

Spend as much time commuicating as managing the project, in fact keep communicating with users, project teams, sponsors, vendors and everyone else involved until they begin communicating your message to each other. At this point they've begun to understand what you're saying, now you just need to keep it going.

MarcW
MarcW

Sorry to disappoint you, but there is nothing really new in your strategy. These are winning strategies that have been valid for decades.... One eventual point to underline is the embracement of change culture in IT. IT profesionals tend to become more and more resistant to change, since it is more comfortable to sit on current knowledge, and acquiring insight on new technology requires a substantial effort.... particularly when you join the fortys+ club.

m.curtis
m.curtis

I agree there are no secrets or surprises with these 5 steps. I would, however, stress the need for a proper evaluation of the benefits - does the business benefit actually outweigh the expenditure of resource? Without that "Business Needs" are revealled as nothing more than "Business Wants". I know, that's obvious as well... However, I would reckon the failure of much of that 68% of projects occured because the business did not have a genuine "need", merely a "want", rather than due to the IT. One reason IT (irrespective of age) appears resistant to change is because they are actually resisting change for change sake (wants rather than needs). An IT professional who questions (or worse says "No" to) a business need (demand) for the latest and greatest technology, based on nothing more than the rationale "the salesman said we would be more efficient", is not lauded for being cost efficient and vigorously applying logic and reason....they are derided and run-down with complaints of "not embracing change" or "not serving the business needs".