100% of IT projects fail.
OK, maybe it’s not all of them, but everyone can agree the percentage is larger than anyone connected with the process would want to see. While there has been much research on this, with case studies, methodologies and frameworks developed to help an organization be successful at implementing a project; one reason that often goes unnoticed is how the project is defined from the very beginning. Is it really an IT project, or is it a Business Project that involves IT?
Now, before you go off and say, “Well, every project is a business project,” let’s set up some parameters for this discussion. We’ll use the traditional paradigm in an organization that IT is a department, and anything that involves technology will be led by the IT department (PMO, etc.).
The way it traditionally works is the organization decides it wants to install a new system to help it improve a particular Business area (doesn’t matter if it was initiated by IT or the Business area), then, once approved, a project manager from IT is assigned to lead the project. There is probably a “champion” from the Business area (likely a VP), and there may, or may not be dedicated resources allocated from the Business area. If a resource is dedicated, it’s usually someone who “has the time.” So, off the organization goes with its latest “IT Project.” The IT PMO leader reports out to the “steering committee” that has been set up to oversee all IT Projects. As time goes by, hiccups happen, setbacks occur, and the IT project manager is answering to all of the issues the project is having. When it is “finally” implemented, it doesn’t work as expected, and is usually deemed another failure (the degree of which varies). Who catches the ire of management, well, IT of course. After all, they were the ones who were responsible to manage and implement the project. So, IT leadership huddles up and tries to come up with a new project management approach, or technique to manage their “IT Projects.” And the cycle repeats again and again and again.
Why does this happen? Because we define every project that deals with technology as an IT project, and then try to manage and lead it accordingly. And we fail. So, what should we do? The first step is to determine if we have an IT project, or a Business Project that involves technology. This is done by determining who will get the greatest benefit or impact from implementing the project as the organization measures itself. If the organization is installing a new finance system, then although the whole company can benefit from this, the greatest impact on the business processes is probably in the finance department. Therefore, someone from the Finance team should lead the project day to day (with project management support from IT). Likewise, if it’s a server virtualization project, then, although virtualization will benefit the entire organization, the business process impact is in the IT department; so this should be led by IT.
To improve your chances of success, identify the true project owner – who is impacted most, and who gets the most benefit, then select the project leader from that area. This is a great opportunity for an up and coming leader to show their stuff! Give them the proper support (like PM from IT experts) and authority they need, and let them get to work.
You will be amazed at the results.