Causes of IT Project Management Failure and Probable Solutions

Projects by nature are not systemic. They do not involve repetitive work and processes. Every project is unique and involves widespread team players. They have a fixed start and end schedule. This makes management and systemization all the more challenging. These challenges typically surround projects not being completed within the scheduled date, exceeding the budget and going out of scope. Various issues lead to an IT project failure.

Here we will focus on some of the major causes that lead to an IT project failure and try to provide solutions to them.

Inability to obtain information on time: In a fast paced environment, project managers may not be able to update the schedule as he might get busy with managing other project related problems and resource allocation. Resources are also shared across multiple projects. All of this leads to incomplete updating of the task schedule. Executives do not have visibility of the entire enterprise project. They are also not able to view the schedules real-time or view the project report. This makes the management incapable of re-directing effort or cancellation things go awry. Even the team members are unaware of the daily task or task priority if involved in multiple projects. Inability to obtain the most needed information at the right time by all the stakeholders (manager, management and team member) leads to confusion and poor visibility of project priorities. (1)

Poor resource allocation and team support: If the project manager allocated to handle a project does not have the correct level of competency required to handle the project, it is disaster-prone. Project managers are chosen on the basis of their availability. Lack of adequate support from all departments may also cause project failure. Team support is critical for project completion. Inability of the manager to establish task allocation, personal rewards, evaluation of personal contribution, and goal synchronization (team and project goals) may lead to poor collaboration for project success. (2)

Poor project requirements: Using poor requirement gathering techniques may mess up the project. Requirement gathering techniques include requirement elicitation through use cases, reports, interface, user screen design specification, etc. There are various details to be captured in the process of the requirement analysis stage. Poor requirement analysis can also lead to project creep in the future leading to cost and time overrun. Requirement analysis techniques should be strong enough for project scoping and delay prevention. Not gathering the correct set of details may lead to failure.

Unrealistic delivery schedule may further lead to poor requirement. Aiming to do excessive changes in a short time span, instead of realistic schedules for small and iterative delivery, can mess up a project too. (3)

Hence, instead of missing deadlines by providing an overoptimistic delivery schedule, it is best to make room for buffer and allot some extra time for handling last minute issues.

Improper Communication: Communication is extremely important for a project’s success. Lack of proper meeting and communication between various team members may lead to poor schedule maintenance and may not keep stakeholders on the same page. This may result in goal disorientation. Regular communication ensures the team goals and project goals are in sync with each other. Generally, emails are the norm for maintaining communication between various stakeholders. Many times, all members do not get covered in the information loop or miss out on a piece of information due to the sheer volume of information sharing involved. Precious time also gets lost when team members are sifting through heaps of mail.

Probable Solutions

1. A centralized, visible location of project schedules enables all major stakeholders to view project schedules (either in a network folder or an extranet solution having access permission rights set). Using enterprise project management software can come in handy for this purpose. It enables managing projects in a single database so team members can access database remotely if the project management software is web based. (4)

2. The business analysts should be well trained for being able to do the correct requirement analysis. (5)

It is essential to have clearly defined goals for projects to prevent scope change in the future. Good requirement analysis can lead to a well-defined project scope. Further project monitoring is required to ensure that the team is within scope. If project creep occurs, request changes should be analyzed to provide a fresh estimate of schedule and cost. There should be a system in place supporting and tracking the scope change This also assists in auditing performance before and after project completion.

3. Project manager with the correct competency set should be assigned to a project. From the very beginning, he/she should rope in the entire team to discuss project details and its importance. Discussion should center around project goals, individual contributions, evaluation mechanisms, and personal rewards on project success. Focus of the PM should be to synchronize individual and project goals.

4. A centralized communication channel should be established to facilitate communication between various stakeholders. A web based system or meeting software can be used for this purpose for project related task communication. The software can post all important project related information at one location. Centralized communication is helpful for clients trying to resolve questions and problems concerning projects – goals, scope, important steps achieved etc. (6)

5. It is always good to make use of software to automate project management and handling, but choice of software is also essential. All team members should be comfortable using it. Hence, effective training should be given to ensure proper utilization of project management software.

References

(3) Project-Skills. “Top 7 Reasons For Project Management Failure.” 2014. Project-Skills Website. 26 February 2015
(2, 5) Schiff, Jennifer L. “12 Common Project Management Mistakes–and How to Avoid Them.” 26 September 212. CIO Website. 26 February 2015
(1,4,6) West, Cynthia, K. “Four Common Reasons Why Projects Fail.” Project Insight Website. 26 February 2015

Project Management V Service Management Part 2

Last week I gave a talk on Project Management v Service Management at the IT Service Management Forum’s Conference here in Singapore. It wasn’t the best presentation I’ve done in recent years but the topic was a relevant one.

My most recent project, in the manufacturing sector, lasted 18 months and was not my most challenging from a project perspective. However it did highlight several areas that I come across on many projects, more vividly, than most.

The interface between Project Management and Service Management as it relates to the IT world, is broken. Yes, I know, we all know it, we’ve all known it for a long time too. In most cases Project folk like to maintain their unique role as special function and not be seen as art of a “service” organization.

Hey, I was like that too many, many years ago. It’s nice to be different from the crowd, have different responsibilities, and to be on a high profile job, like a major project. Well that’s all fine but it’s not good for the organization investing in the project and it’s a very inefficient way to operate. And here’s why:

Project Management v Service Management

Without a clear definition of the project deliverables that include the service management needs;

  1. customers requirements may not include support requirements resulting in the project delivering products and services that will not meet service and support needs.
  2. integration of change process between the two organizations is prone to problems and risks if not operated as one. This can and often does lead to clashes and delays as two organizations attempt changes relating to common infrastructure and operations.
  3. strategic business decisions that may influence the support model may not be fed into the project solution.
  4. project outcome may satisfy the initial requirements but be a nightmare for support services to manage and therefore prove a poor long term investment and not deliver to the business strategy 100%.
  5. handover of the project into an operational environment will prove more of a challenge than it needs to be.
  6. lack of “synchronization” between project management and support management will cause delays and increased costs against the project.
  7. Many process and procedures that the project organization need to use or interface with are inefficient for project work or are created specifically for the project and don’t interface or leverage the operational procedures that they need to become part of.

If you look at the ITIL model, the approach to the Service Life Cycle almost emulates the Project lifecycle at high level, in Prince 2. This is no accident. In business the strategies are discussed and presented. The design of a solution to deliver that strategy is worked out and then the solution is built. Once the new solution is in place, well, someone has t support it, don’t they?

It’s no surprise that the service management organization is key to the delivery of business strategies and in so doing encompasses a high degree of project management in the delivery f those strategies.

The link between project management and service management organizations is more like an intimate bond. So why is it missing in action in so many organizations?

I don’t have the answer here. I could speculate, based on many years of project management and service management experience. But I won’t, here, and now.

My message is this;

  1. Project scope and requirements must include the service management or support organizations requirements as well as the business needs.
  2. Management process and procedures that support a project should be aligned to operational procedures as much as possible. That means operational procedures need to be flexible and efficient in support project needs as well as operational needs. i.e. Procurement, Resource engagement, Financial reporting, Change Management etc.
  3. Project skills are not easily learned and are sufficiently different from a service management skill set that it pays to get experienced project managers on to major investment projects. However, never lose the opportunity to develop good service staff by attaching them to the project in assisting roles.

Project Management is about people, so is Service Management. Both have similar needs and common threads, both also require training and practice (experience) to become professional delivery agents.

Understanding Project Management and Its Relationship to Program and Portfolio Management

In this article we will discuss the activities involved and the relationship between portfolio management, program management, project management and organizational project management.

In addition, we will look at the role projects have in strategic planning and finally we will discuss the project management office and its importance.

Portfolios, programs and projects are all related and aligned to organizational strategy. In the same manner, portfolio management, program management and project management all contribute to the achievement of the strategic goals of the organization in different ways.

The various activities of these three areas all relate to the organizational project management (OPM). Organizational project management is the systematic management of projects, programs, and portfolios in alignment with the achievement of strategic goals. The PMI concept of organizational project management is based on the idea that there is a correlation between an organization’s capabilities in project management, program management, and portfolio management and the organization’s effectiveness in implementing strategy.

A program is a group of projects that are similar in scope, activities, and have similar subprograms. The purpose of a program is to manage the projects in a coordinated way.

Not all projects conducted within the organization will fall into the same program. however, programs will always have projects.

Program management involves providing the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to the program in order for program requirements to be met.

Program management focuses on the co-operation between the projects to determine the optimal approach to managing them. Usually these projects are interdependent, for example having the same resource requirements, governance structure and similar strategic organizational direction along with this they may face similar issues and change management considerations.

Portfolio Management

The portfolio includes all programs, projects, and subprograms that meet a strategic objective of the organization. Programs and projects do not need to be related in order to be in the portfolio, the only requirement is to contribute the same overall strategic objective(s) of the organization. Portfolio management is the centralized management of one or more portfolios that will help the organization achieve its overall strategic objectives, it is concerned with all projects and programs, part of the management process is to ensure that all projects and programs have the proper resource allocation and that all programs and projects are aligned and support the overall strategic objectives of the organization.

Now we will look at projects and strategic planning

Projects should be created to directly or indirectly assist with the achievement of an organisation’s strategic objectives

Some strategic considerations which lead to projects include:

  • Market demand – Many industries are facing a time of change and great competition. It is important for organizations to recognize the needs of the market and respond appropriately. Because of the importance of responding quickly, effectively and cost efficiently projects are often initiated to address these issues or opportunities
  • Strategic opportunity or a business need – A project may be initiated to develop new product or service in order to expand the organization, increase revenue, or solve a problem that company is encountering
  • Social need – Projects are initiated to help a community or group of people solve issues the people may be facing.
  • Environmental considerations – Companies today are continually looking for new ways to improve their operations to be more “environmentally friendly”.
  • Customer request – Organizations are always looking for new ways to satisfy the needs and wants of the customers, so a project may be setup to meet a specific customer need.
  • Technology advances, technology continually changes, as a result the products, services, and operations of the organization must be continually improved to stay in line with trends, opportunities or threats caused by these developments
  • Legal requirements, organizations are required to follow and meet certain legal guidelines for their industries, project are often developed to meet these requirements.

The Project Management Office

A project management office (PMO) is a management structure that is used to standardize project processes and also allow for the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.

The PMO can be supportive in nature. In this role, the PMO takes on a consultative role to projects by providing templates, best practices, training, access to information and lessons learned from past projects. In the supportive role, the control level the PMO over the specific project is low

The PMO can also have a controlling role, in this role, the PMO would provide support and require compliance through various means. They include having standard project management practices and methodologies, using similar templates and tools. In the controlling role, the control level the PMO has over projects is considered moderate

Finally, the PMO can have the directive role. In this role, the PMO takes direct control of the projects in its remit. In the directive role the control level the PMO over the projects’ processes is considered high.

The PMO can provide a great benefit to the organization through sharing information, identifying and implementing common methodologies, training new project managers and coordinating across different projects.

The role of the PMO will be determined by the organization and the level of structure considered to be necessary

In general project managers are still in charge of their individual projects and PMO is concerned with establishing guidelines and providing support to all projects