Despite information technology’s growing importance to the workplace, it’s a fact that many IT projects fail either by not delivering expected results or exceeding the budget and timeline. The question, however, is why. Why do IT projects fail? More importantly, what can you do about it to counter cost overruns and irrelevant technology solutions?
Those are great questions to ask when solving for the project-failure problem. To get you started with the process, we’ll look at five common reasons projects fail and what you can do to prevent them.
1. No Defined Outcomes
Not having defined outcomes for IT projects is like trying to steer a ship minus its rudder; it just doesn’t work. The business lists in the wind. It never comes into port because it doesn’t know where the port is. It runs aground or is lost to a typhoon.
It has no anchor to steady it when uncertainty arises–and it arises all the time, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. A new competitor enters the marketplace. Slower economic growth is accompanied by market conditions and customer demand that don’t perform as expected or predicted.
Defined outcomes are the anchor and, as such, are critical to successful technology implementations. To define yours, assess your business needs and goals. Next, establish quantifiable metrics for success, which include efficiency and productivity markers, as well as employee usage and satisfaction.
2. Lack of Leadership and Accountability
Projects flounder and often fail without outcomes, but they will almost always fail without the oversight of a project manager and their team members. These people take the helm of the people, processes, and digital tools in order to bring technology implementations to a positive conclusion. The results speak for themselves; businesses that invest in project management see incredibly high ROI, ranging from 250 to 500%.
The solution here is obvious: assign a dedicated project manager, or even a team from your change management department. They will oversee the technology project from start to finish and see it and your employees safely home.
3. Nonexistent Plan and Timeline
While project managers are beneficial, not all are equipped to manage technology implementation projects. Those who aren’t either will not develop a plan with realistic milestones and an accompanying timeline; or they’ll use an out-of-date planning model that has nothing to do with today’s business environment. Project plans need to correspond with current business trends, specific company objectives, and end users’ needs. If they don’t, the project will quickly capsize, if not hit an iceberg of employee resistance.
You should seek a project manager who will develop a plan that enables company outcomes and expectations. Also look for a person who focuses on delivery dates and can differentiate between scope creep and valid user concerns. You want agility and adaptability coupled with discernment and decision-making skills. What you don’t want is a project manager who fails to plan. It’s always a plan to fail.
4. Gaps in Communication
Communication is the lifeblood of any organization. Without it, you won’t know of dangers ahead or be able to respond to them. Project managers won’t be able to complete their assignments because they don’t know what the assignments and goals are.
A similar scene plays out with employees. If they don’t know that change is coming, watch out: they will abandon ship, fast. Employees can and will accept change, but only if it’s positioned correctly and states what’s in it for them, i.e., benefits.
Because of that, it’s important to have regular dialogue among executive management, project managers, and end users. Some refer to the concept as transparency or visibility. Regardless of the terminology, it’s essential to project success.
Also essential is the right kind of communication. It’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little, but do be aware of where, when, and how communication occurs. You don’t want to flood people’s inboxes, and you definitely don’t want to use interoffice memos. You should instead find a centralized place to disseminate information, which includes the proposed change, training opportunities, and other resources.
5. Failure to Address User Feedback
A final reason for project failure has to do with end users. If the solution doesn’t meet their needs, they aren’t going to use it–no matter how much work has gone into establishing outcomes, project timelines, and communication plans. A technology project has to meet the needs of everyone for it to be a successful and sustainable investment.
Because of that, user feedback should be sought before, during, and after any technology project. Make sure you’re solving the right problem before deciding on tech, tools, processes, project managers, et cetera. Then, ask for feedback during a validation phase and incorporate the needed changes in the next stage of the project. The final step is to use employees’ success with the tool to evangelize the change across the organization, thereby driving higher adoption and project success rates.
Technology projects fail all the time, but yours don’t have to. Address the five reasons listed above during your next software implementation, and the process will be, for the most part, smooth sailing.
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