Let’s start with bare facts on IT project failures, since there’s nothing as convincing as a handful of numbers. Although they are supported with an array of management methodologies and technologies allowing to co-work with an overseas specialists seamlessly, still fewer than a third of IT projects were successfully completed on time and budget over the past year.
What’s even more daunting, 75% of business and IT executives actually believe their software projects will fail. It proves that they know something is wrong at the beginning of a given project. Still, they chose to continue and hope for a miracle, instead of looking for the practices that make numerous of their projects fail. This article is that you can save your time and energy and go straight to making your next IT project a success.
A wise, old project manager once said that over ninety percent of project failures could be tracked down to problems in communication. Well, he might be not in the number exactly, but he was just right in the spirit. Ineffective communication between the client and the project manager, internal problems within the team and excluding the sponsors from the project talks have a disastrous effect on the final product, provided the product will be somehow finished.
Yet, numerous IT companies throws millions of dollars out the window with projects they attempt to execute without a well-thought-out communication strategy and tools built to store and regulate IT project information.
The development process cannot happen in a vacuum. All the parties should be involved, kept in the loop of any adjustments and free to express any doubts. It’s even more important in case of big projects, involving multiple development teams from various departments that, e.g. manage certain platforms, or vendor teams customizing a product the company has just purchased. Poor communication has a domino effect. One small mistake of a team leads to delay in another team, and it continues. The only thing a PM can do is rushing the teams and watching in terror how the deadline is coming. That’s it.
A good PM knows that managing a project resembles governing a small city – without good communication it’s just a chaos.
When an IT project demands dozens of specialists collaborating with each other over an extended period of time, managers have quite a hard time planning to foresee all the activities and work streams that will be required. Unless the main objectives of the project are crystal-clear and on a daily repeat, it’s almost unavoidable that sooner or later some things will appear a bit different. Some of them will be left out, and some will be replaced with other, more cool solutions. In fact, changing project objectives is the reason of 36% of failed projects.
Although controlling the shifting objectives is mission impossible, minimizing the impact of them is doable. The leading PMs plan the work in two-week iterations, specifying the vital scope of work and tasks that are realistic to complete during those two weeks. Consequently, the dev team focuses on the priorities and delivers releasable code.
Well begun, as they say, is half done. And the other way around, unrealistic demands during an initial phase, usually dooms the project to failure.
Clients and stakeholders tend to have high hopes and unrealistic demands for their projects, assuming anything they say can come true. Short deadlines, excellent work done in a blink of an eye, all of that at ridiculously affordable price – nothing good comes out of it. The team may feel motivated at the beginning, but then, as the project evolves and the scope of work gets wider, the team makes more and more desperate attempts to fit the requirements in the already set boundaries.
As much as 39% of projects tank because of inadequate requirements. If only the client remembered that projects change and evolve… A little bit of flexibility would be a game-changer. Instead of trying to fit the project into requirements, the stakeholders should try the opposite approach – adjusting the requirements to a specific project.
One of the big failures and, sadly, common practices, is cutting off project sponsors or owners as soon as they define the product. It is also accompanied by trusting solely the team to deliver exactly that product. As a result, the team starts guessing the answers to the questions arising in the process. If they guess right, that’s amazing. But such luck doesn’t last forever and sooner or later they will fail in a subtle art of reading someone’s mind.
What’s more, without the constant involvement of the aforementioned parties, the possible mistakes in developing don’t come out until the final phase of the project. Or the moment when sponsors or owners get to see the finished product. Obviously sponsors aren’t happy, products aren’t ready for the release, the changes – instead of the small adjustments – are big and complex. The deadlines are exceeded and the budget is twice as it should be.
To sum it up statistically, the failure to involve project sponsors or owners into the process of development is responsible for 27% of failed projects. And it could be resolved with welcoming a business representative into team meetings and allowing him to review the ongoing work in order to check if it meets the original requests.
Businesses – whether they are small or big – juggle multiple plans, documents, drafts, tasks and finally people. Without an efficient software, sooner or later the project gets messy and boundaries of tasks become blurry. Finally also people end up doing a way more than they should.
However, such signs as too quickly consumed budget, or missed targets, could be ignored, as it takes a watchful eye to spot them at the very beginning. Or it takes a reliable project management software and someone in charge of it. According to the study, about 70% of top companies use project management software both for better communication and organizing the workflow. It proves how such software paves the way not only towards a great kick-off of the project, but also secures its successful completion.
Project management is much more than statistics and ready-made solutions for your ideas. It’s an intricate process of turning your thoughts into reality. That’s why it’s so easy to make a step in the wrong direction without constant and open communication. No one is a mind-reader, that’s why all the parties, stakeholders included, should be an inseparable part of the project development.
However, being a part of it doesn’t mean overwhelming the team with unrealistic demands and “have it all” attitude. Flexibility and again, communication, are the key to success. Taking all of that into account and entering all the agreed requirements and weekly progress into a decent management software – it may not be a perfect recipe for making it big, but it certainly is a head start in executing projects successfully.
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