Many of you will have seen the headlines on the increasing rise in IT project failures, how project costs overrun by 45 per cent on average and deliver only 56 per cent of the intended benefits*. So, what is IT project success?
The fundamentals of project management are time, cost and quality to deliver an output. When you combine multiple projects into a programme then you focus on the outcome – making the outcome greater than the sum of the parts. Typically, two out of the three will deliver the results, but it is only in a few cases that all three parts are delivered. In our experience, the main reason for failure is not having agreement up front as to what each part means and a clear understanding of what success is. A clear benefits case, broken down by the number of parts, needs to be agreed; without this there isn’t a valid reason to spend the time or money on it.
The elements of success
This proven approach to achieving IT project success is based on going back to basics and looking at the set-up of the team. Based on over 50 years’ research that has evolved over time using the combined learning from multiple sectors, our latest iteration of ‘whole systems thinking’ places equal importance on the eight elements below. These must be optimised and embedded for any team, process or service to operate anywhere near its best.
Experience and learning tells us that the time invested at the beginning to get all the key people aligned with a shared and agreed purpose is critical. By involving the whole team, covering each of the eight elements, ensures that whatever approach is agreed, it will be fit for purpose because it will have been adjusted to suit the priorities, needs and values of the situation.
Where is the technology?
Whereas some organisations may let technology lead the project, we believe it is the team and not the technology that is purposefully at the centre of success. Based on our experience, we have deliberately ensured technology is not called out as a specific element on its own because what is needed will not be clarified until all of the parts are assembled.
What are the results?
Whatever the scale of the project, the basics of the approach are the same. We worked with one client to improve processes to meet regulatory requirements which if they weren’t met would have had an adverse financial and reputational impact. The output of the programme resulted in a more efficient management of property records, which in turn resulted in many fundamental benefits to the business in terms of cost and time savings. By focusing on people and processes first, it drives and resolves what is needed from IT and addresses the data quality and management issues, because their importance has been embedded into the whole systems approach.
Gill Newsome is the business development manager at Capita IT Professional Services.
* Research undertaken by Mckinsey-Oxford University.