Tag Archives: successful projects

6 Keys to Successful IT Projects plus a secret

projectDelivering projects successfully is critical for your IT organization; in fact it is the key to IT credibility, , , not just the IT organization’s but your credibility as an IT manager as well. That means you need to do things that position your organization for project success.

What is “project success”?

Simply put, project success includes delivering projects that are:
–  completed on time
–  delivered within budget
–  achieve the stated goals and objectives
–  meet client expectations

In my experience, there are 6 keys to delivering IT projects successfully:

1.  Manage the project’s scope
There are two parts in managing scope – defining the project goals and quantifying the deliverables. Being specific about what the project will achieve and what you will deliver is how you manage your client’s expectations. First rule of delivering a successful project is that you must establish realistic and achievable expectations with your client in the beginning before you actually start working on project tasks. If you don’t, you have no chance in delivering the project successfully.

2. Develop a solid project schedule
A good project schedule identifies all the tasks that must be completed to deliver the project successfully. Once you know exactly what must be done, you can staff the project appropriately and budget the project. Project schedules define:
– tasks that must be completed
– task responsibilities (accountability for completing each task)
– task completion timelines

In a nutshell, a good project schedule defines what, who and when.

3. Staff the project with competent people
It goes without saying that you won’t be very successful if you do not have competent people taking care of the required tasks. Once you identify the tasks required to deliver the project successfully, focus on the people that have the required skills who need to take responsibility for each task.

4. Be conservative when budgeting and estimating task completion time frames
There is a golden rule in IT, , , “Things take longer and cost more than you think they will.” Believe it, it’s true. If you do not have buffer in your budget and project timeline estimates, odds are high that you will either be over budget or deliver the project late, , , or both. Be conservative when estimating project costs and task due dates. You want to position your project team to over deliver. No one gets upset if you complete the project early or under budget.

5. Schedule a Kickoff Meeting to get everyone on the same page.
A great way to get the project started on the right foot is to hold a Project Kickoff Meeting with all project members attending. It allows you to set expectations with the project team members, to identify bottlenecks or key risk areas that might prevent project success, and to outline the guidelines for future project status meetings, , , i.e., “come to status meetings with your tasks completed and prepared”. An effective Kickoff Meeting helps you get everyone on “the same page” and started on a positive note.

6. Manage the schedule with weekly project status meetings
Projects don’t happen on their own. They are successful because project managers make them happen, , , they push and guide projects to the finish line so they are delivered on time and within budget. An important tool project managers use to do this is by holding weekly project status meetings to understand issues that arise, make corrective actions as needed and to push the project forward. You can build a great schedule and budget, but if you do not “manage the project” with regularly scheduled status meetings, the project won’t be delivered successfully.

meeting-3OK, these are what I consider the 6 keys to managing projects successfully, , , but there is a secret component you need to know about. Three of these key elements require strong communication. Unfortunately, IT managers have a tendency to be weak communicators. I’ve discussed this issue many times in prior posts. It’s a very real problem.

The bottom line is that poor communication is the root of much of our IT failure.

That’s right, in order to complete three of the six key parts of successful project delivery, you must communicate effectively:
1. Manage the project’s scope – This requires you to quantify the goals and objectives and spell out specifically what will be delivered to your client so you can gain agreement. It requires you to communicate with your client.
2. Hold a Project Kickoff Meeting – This requires you to communicate the schedule and obtain “buy-in” from all project team members that they can complete the tasks by the scheduled completion dates.
3. Hold regular Project Status Meetings to manage the project – Again, strong communication skills are required to make this happen.

My sense is that 70-80% of projects that fail are caused by poor communication and not doing these three key parts just listed effectively.

Let me give you two quick examples:

1. Often, IT people are so eager to start the work on a new project, they don’t spend time to define the scope and gain commitment from their client on the specifics that must be delivered. In many cases, they don’t even take the time to define what they believe are the requirements of a project, , , they simply start working. Doing this will spell “disaster” every time.

2. Another example is that I’ve seen IT organizations stop holding Project Status Meetings and updating the project schedule because “it takes too much time”. Yes, it does require time, but if you fail to monitor and manage the project by reviewing the weekly tasks that must be completed, , , you might as well go ahead and ring up another project failure to your list.

it project management ebookRemember, projects don’t happen successfully on their own, , , they are successful only when someone manages the project and pays attention to the details. A big part of this detail work is the communication aspects of three of the six key parts of successful projects that I have laid out to you.

If you are interested in a practical resource and tools to help you deliver projects successfully, check out my book, IT Project Management: a practical approach.

Project scope creep is going to get you

Do you know what “project scope creep” is?

Who do you think are the main cause of scope creep in your company?

Scope creep happens after you define the scope and deliverable of a project and make a commitment to deliver it. As your team works on the project, over time you discover your client’s expectations of what you will deliver has increased, , , in some cases quite substantially more than what the original project scope was defined to be.

Here is an example. Your original project to develop a new software feature was going to take 300 hours but 60 days into the project the client thinks you are going to develop functionality that will probably take 500 hours, , , your project has mysteriously grown by 40%.

As a result, your project will not be successful, , , you will either deliver less than expected or you will complete the project much later than expected.

Why did this happen and what caused this huge increase in scope, , , better yet, who caused it?

The phenomena of scope creep comes back to “who caused it”. Most think the client is the culprit.

It’s usually not the case, , , most of the time scope creep is caused by your own IT people. That’s right, , , we are the primary cause of scope creep. It is like “shooting ourselves in the foot”.

Here is what happens. Your people, in this case programmers and business analysts, are very bright and conscientious people. They want to do a good job for your clients.

As they begin working on a software feature enhancement to address a client issue, they think of things that could make the product even better, , , little things, mind you, , , but great ideas that will help the client beyond the initial scope of what we originally agreed to do.

Before you know it, the client is all excited about what he is seeing and hearing about his new software feature. As parts of the code are completed, more discussions take place because the programmer and business analyst identify additional things that can be done to improve the situation, , , all good things.

The problem is that these “good things” add work to the project and will make the project run longer and cost more than originally planned.

In many cases, these discussions take place in the background and the project manager is not even aware he is literally being set up for failure, , , albeit unintentionally and more of people trying to do good things for the client.

Coach your employees and teach them about scope creep. You want them to be creative and to come up with good ideas, , , you just need them to bring these ideas to the project manager first to discuss them, , , not to get the client all excited and have his expectations get out of line with what has been committed to.

If the idea has value, we will take it to the client together to evaluate the situation. If it has enough value to change the scope of the project, we will do it in a way that will manage the client’s expectations as to delivery date, cost, etc.

Teach your employees about scope creep and ensure they understand there are only two people who can add additional scope to a project, , , the project sponsor or the project manager. All good ideas need to go through one of these two people.

Projects have to be managed and one of the elements of project management is to manage scope creep.