Many large-scale IT projects face several problems due to poor management. The problems can be attributed to factors such as technical flaws, errors in scheduling, and budget overruns, all of which can hamper the success of the project. A failed project can cost a company millions of dollars, consequently causing a serious drag in the economy.
A recent example of a major project failure is healthcare.gov, which suffered serious performance issues in late 2013. The website had a large number of users, as a result, it had to encounter heavy traffic. This slowed down its servers to a great extent, and only one out of five users were able to sign in to the website. The lesson to learn here is that healthcare.gov failed to execute the project well despite being a mature organization with sufficient development time, generous funds (around $400 million), and access to superior technology.
The failure of a major IT project can be due to a number of reasons. Here are a few key reasons, apart from outdated technological practices, that can cause the failure of major IT projects.
a) Constantly altering requirements
This is a huge setback for any major project. When the requirements of a project are confusing and keep changing from time to time, it can become difficult for the employees as well as the management to understand exactly what is expected of them.
b) Lack of resources/skill set
Lack of appropriate allocation or access to limited resources can lead to employee dissatisfaction and a high rate of attrition. Improper planning can make project deadlines unrealistic.
c) Substandard design
Shortcomings in existing development features or ineffective usage of new technology can often lead to poor or substandard design. Such inefficiencies may not pose a serious threat to the project in its initial stages, but will be a major hindrance as it progresses.
To avoid overlooking factors that are critical to a project, organizations employ experts who help in making authoritative decisions to achieve critical business goals. These individuals are trained to identify the risks associated with major projects and assist in resolving resource conflicts.
How to ensure that your project is a success
While discussing IT project failures, one of the questions that comes to mind is: How do some projects succeed? In fact, this is the most important question that every project manager should ask himself/herself before taking up a new project. Strategic leadership and transparent funding can contribute significantly to ensuring that the project is a success. There are, however, a few other measures that every organization must take to procure adequate resources and ensure timely delivery.
Setting up clear objectives
Project objectives and goals must be shared in writing with everyone on the team. A meeting must be set up with all the team members. The tasks involved in the project and the estimated time of completion should also be discussed.
Planning ahead of time
In the course of completing a project, a number of important decisions will have to be made. Even if one of them is faulty, it can have a profound impact on the success of the project. This makes it all the more necessary to create a formal project plan and ensure that every decision made in the context of each task is implemented accordingly.
Aligning with stakeholders
Communication with stakeholders through every step of the project is very essential, and can play a major role in guaranteeing a successful outcome. Periodic meetings between the team leaders and stakeholders to give timely updates and develop new project relationships must be encouraged.
Identifying the risks
The management should be aware of all the risks associated with any new project and prepare to counter them in case they should arise. It may not be possible to identify all the risks associated with a project in its initial stage. However, the team should be well trained to ensure that it can deal with a crisis as and when it occurs.
The project manager should assign the right tasks to the right individuals. Team members should be made aware of their assignments, and given definite responsibilities. A clear distribution of tasks will make it a lot simpler for the team manager to keep track of the tasks. Also, in case of changes in requirements, team members should be ready to take on new roles and responsibilities as the project progresses.
After the project begins, the manager must oversee all the processes and ensure that there is coordination between the different departments of the organization. Performance should be measured and concerns must be addressed at the start of each individual task.
Methods to make a project more adaptive to varied situations must be examined at regular time intervals. A periodic review and analysis of project data (or a decision cycle) must be undertaken to avoid unexpected problems and make the project responsive to new requirements or changes. A Gantt chart is a useful tool that can be used to monitor the project’s development over time.
Create a work breakdown structure (WBS) for your project, a list that contains all the tasks required to be completed to deliver the project on time. Some tips for creating an effective WBS are setting up a milestone chart, identifying the deliverables, and grouping individual tasks under different heads. Once you have set the milestones, you can track whether the project is progressing as per schedule.
Foreseeing issues in an IT project is not always possible, especially in the case of large projects. To steer a project towards success, it is essential that the organization’s leaders adopt a forward-thinking approach which can help understand changing realities and align organizational goals with them. The above measures can act as a basic guideline for your project’s success. In addition, accurate planning, clear goals, defined assignments, and strategic management can help effectively understand potential risks and prevent unnecessary task pileup.
Written by Ali Aurangzeb, Head of Global Marketing