The CEO’S Ten Step Guide to a Successful I.T. Project

In a career spanning more than forty years I have been involved in hundreds of successful project and been witness to hundreds more disasters. I have also performed more than a few post mortems on failing or failed projects.

During that time, the dismal success and user satisfaction rates for IT projects has not budged, despite numerous advances in technology, methodologies and the professionalization of the project management discipline. Indeed, the debate about whether project management (PM) is an art or science persists, perhaps because the answer is not a binary one. As well, IT success is a business issue and demands the same executive oversight as finance, operations and R&D. This has become self evident from our experience performing project health-checks, or stage gate reviews, on projects which were in jeopardy. All the status reports, red flags and dashboards in the world are ineffective if the people to whom they are directed cannot or will not react to them in a timely and effective manner. There are often good business reasons why they often cannot, or do not, react. It’s the CEO’s role to define and manage the business priorities to eliminate those obstacles.

It’s the CEO’s role to define and manage the business priorities to eliminate those obstacles.

A decade ago, after analysing several multi-million dollar project failures, my partner and I developed a workshop for the University of Sydney to explain Contract Management as an adjunct to its various courses on Project Management. In it, we outlined the contract management process from project conceptualization to successful completion. Obviously, there are numerous steps in any IT project. Complex projects have thousands of steps, interactions and inter-relationships. Often, however, projects are unsuccessful not from the complexity but from a failure to deal with the simple fundamentals. We have witnessed this issue time and again, even in sophisticated IT environments and on projects undertaken by global IT leaders. Many projects are doomed long before the Project Management process begins. Here we will attempt to outline the ten fundamental steps to achieve project success.

Even global IT leaders sometimes overlook these simple fundamentals.

In subsequent blogs we will attempt to explain the ten crucial steps in greater detail. While there is an implied chronology to these steps, we recognize that there are situations where the sequence needs adjustment: e.g. where requirements are necessary before quotes can be obtained and detailed budgets are set. In ALL situations where the sequence is altered, ALL the previous steps should be re-done. Yes, it takes time and cost money – but, like insurance, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. It can save money, careers and in some cases can save the business itself.

  1. Ensure it has sustainable business benefits and identify to which business unit(s) they accrue
  2. Ensure technical feasibility within the time limit – avoid the “bleeding edge”
  3. Invest in the foundations: Project Charter, stakeholder analysis, robust and inclusive steering committee, budget and initial plan
  4. Identify a high level champion for Change Management

 CHECK POINT – Go no further until these conditions are secured

  1. Ensure informed sign-off of the requirements definition
  2. Validate the RFP and selection process to avoid biases – technical and business – and designate a business executive to manage the contract
  3. Validate the revised plan with ALL stakeholders and re-affirm business commitment CHECK POINT
  4. Launch the project personally with the appropriate fanfare and team-building encouragement
  5. Monitor Steering Committee action on Status Reports and Issue Register and ensure that the Contract is managed
  6. Celebrate the successful completion with appropriate congratulations

Over the coming weeks we will elaborate on these simple steps. We welcome your questions and comments.

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