The 4 Fundamental Components of a Successful IT Project
By: Raleigh DeShazo, Director of Client Services
A few years ago, I authored a white paper titled “7 Steps to Delivering Projects On-Time and On-Budget.” The article addressed the challenges in delivering projects and the key areas on which to focus to increase success.
More recently, I’ve seen the trend to assess blame for projects that don’t perform perfectly. This attitude, when not justified, can harm the client/vendor relationship. The expectation is that all projects will complete on-time, on-budget, and with all required functionality performing as expected on Day 1. Anything short of this, and the finger pointing begins. Managers want to know why things went wrong and expect to be provided with evidence detailing the failures and related decisions. Undocumented decisions and explanations, which are a part of every project, are not trusted. Many times, project resources, who did their best, feel as if they have performed poorly, and stop challenging the status quo and taking the risks necessary to achieve great results.
This attitude is counter-productive. All projects face common obstacles: resource constraints, forgotten or misunderstood requirements, changing priorities, scope additions, and Murphy’s Law. The reality is, there is no plug-in template.
From a client/vendor perspective, I recommend the following components to achieve a successful IT project:
- Collaboration. Both the client and vendor must be fully invested in the project. Clients must take ultimate responsibility for project tasks and deliverables. Vendor resources should be additions to the client project team, providing industry best practices and product expertise. This approach has many benefits. Most notably, improving client internal performance capabilities.
- Preparation. Set achievable objectives and target dates. For example, one of the primary mistakes is setting a project time line when functionality and resource requirements have not been finalized. Project scope should be determined by what the client is ready, willing, and able to support. If the schedule is critical, minimize functionality requirements and divide the project into phases.
- Definition. Fully define project requirements, both technical and functional, before launching construct tasks. To those who haven’t managed a significant number of large projects, it can feel as if this process takes too long and costs too much. Let’s be honest, most leaders are doers and want to get started getting things done as quickly as possible. How are you going to get there if you don’t get started? Our clients who follow a requirements-first methodology realize/achieve the most successful projects. They rarely exceed project budgets or schedules. Why? They know where they’re going before they get started.
- Fixed Pricing. Last, there are times, due to internal resource limitations or vendor expertise, that the optimal strategy is to outsource the project to your vendor. This is the right option for many of our clients. In this case, in order to reduce risks, seek a fixed-price proposal. This will help ensure project success in several ways. First, your vendor will insist on following a project requirements definition methodology. Second, the vendor assumes the risk of delivering the project requirements within the contract pricing.
It’s hard to deliver the perfect successful IT project. There are simply too many variables that can rarely be controlled. Follow the recommendations above, and my experience has taught me that you’ll come out ahead.