Large-scale projects can often exceed the set schedule and budget. Such unplanned costs become a danger to an organization. Working through that hurdle can be a challenging task. It involves combining core organizational values with IT goals.
The IT sub-industry has enjoyed an ever-growing market in recent years. IT-based projects have become more significant as part of larger organizations. Being more involved means they have become riskier in the event of failure. Research shows, on average, almost all IT projects exceed 25% of their original budget. Not only that, but they typically take 24% longer to finish than original estimates. A 2013 survey of 1,355 IT projects found at least 18% went beyond 25% overrun of the budget.
The longer the project, the greater the risk. Research indicates each additional year adds 4.2% into average costs. An earlier Harvard University study found one of every six projects exceeded its budget by 200% on average. These findings create an apprehensive picture for large-scale IT projects. The great news is that most companies are able to recover from the setback. Unfortunately, an estimated 17% of such projects can go very south very fast. These black swan projects, with overruns exceeding 200%, can topple whole companies.
Large-scale IT projects may be the future, but they require planning. Even then, things can sometimes go wrong. However, there are still some things to do to prevent that from happening.
The four dimensions of project sustainability
IT projects, like any other, require planning and strategizing. You want your project to stay on schedule and budget without losing its value. Ensuring this involves covering four main bases in relation to any project. They outline a value assurance approach to maintain manageability and success.
- Considering stakeholders and focusing on an effective strategy
- Recruiting relevant talent with a deep understanding of the project
- Focusing on team-building that orients individuals with project goals
- Vigilant project management
Mastering these dimensions does appear to reduce risk considerably. Ineffective handling, on the other hand, is associated with overrun costs. These dimensions do cover a large chunk of effective project execution.
Considering stakeholders and effective strategies
Projects often start with a laser-focus on schedules and budgets. These are important targets that must be met for a project’s success. However, these are end goals that must be met with a focus on other elements. This also includes giving due attention to your project strategies and stakeholders. Both these factors play a major role in the outcome of the project.
Successful IT projects maintain a clear view of the strategies they must implement. This does not simply include the technical aspect of the job. A high-performance project keeps a vigilant eye on its core objectives. Not just that, but overall organization objectives are also kept in mind. Overrun costs are avoided when strategies are developed and nurtured along the way. It can also improve post-project response while reducing maintenance costs.
Managing and considering all stakeholders involved with the project is also important. This includes everyone, from executives and partners to business vendors. The role of some of these stakeholders may be understated at times. However, they play an important role in overall project accomplishment. They can keep project progress aligned with business and stakeholder interest. These business players come with a better understanding of business needs. They can also make better assessments of project needs and progress.
In the same way, strategizing involves thinking ahead. One way to avoid risks is to anticipate the likelihood of them occurring. Necessary arrangements are then made to counter those risks in advance. Some risks may be inevitable, but steps can be taken to reduce their effects.
2. Recruiting expert talent
An effective project team works on the technical and non-technical aspects of the job. This includes everything from It infrastructure to quality control. The technical aspects in IT projects is a major concern, and often takes up much of the focus. But the right team will align this focus with business objectives, going hand-in-hand. The right team of experts can maintain the multifaceted focus needed for success.
One major problem often occurs with teams, and this is where the problem arises. The management teams develop a singular focus towards the technological aspects. The focus is understandable, given the issues that can arise through faulty implementation. What this can create however, is ignorance of organizational goals. Teams become focused on the “how,” while completely ignoring the “why.” The result is enormous overruns as business objectives are sacrificed for technical mastery.
What should be happening instead is for business goals to guide technological progress. Teams should focus on the end goal the business is trying to achieve with the project. Building teams who understand both these aspects also aids project success. These teams can be internally or externally recruited. Such individuals possess the unique skills needed for project success.
3. Team building
Long-term IT projects span across the entirety of an organization. They involve many different people in the process. Any large-scale project develops a complexity involving any number of issues and concerns. Different individuals making up the team will likely come in with their own ideas and vision. The team can only be effective, however, if all members share a common vision in line with business goals.
This also ensures effective communication for good collaboration. With team members all on the same page, technical goals are met within financial targets. Timely goal-achievement, effective project management and successful project completion are important achievements. They occur with a team oriented to internal and external goals.
An effective team undertakes all those tasks necessary for success. It includes developing and implementing strategies that combine project and business goals. At the same time, they maintain robust communication with all stakeholder parties. The purpose is to align project goals with their interests. The team will also implement its diverse set of skills in all project management aspects. Clearly-defined aspects also allow for proper goal and progress mapping.
4. Vigilant project management
Good project management is at the centre of project success. Most inflated costs and overrun schedules come from mismanagement. They show a lack of insight into proper management. It involves establishing vigilant processes that keep project progress in check. This should include quick and effective processing of requests. All end goals are also set for shorter delivery life cycles that prevent wastage.
A great approach to this can be developing two teams that work on an integrated platform. One team manages IT goals, focusing on technical aspects of goal-achievement. The other works on business goals, and how to achieve them. Integrated teams are more effective as they keep individuals focused on overall targets.
There are also many techniques to achieving and maintaining effective management teams. Goal breakdowns, with time and talent limits, all give insight into what is required. Managing different aspects of a project is a hefty task. A dedicated team breaks down those management goals to measure progress. The focus should be that it carries all parties to stick to budget, schedule and value demands.
The Black-Swan Risk
The risk for failure means analyzing that risk and preparing contingencies is a must. What this generally involves is obtaining an understanding of current and newly-undertaken projects. This diagnostic reveals how a project aligns with value assurance. It also shows likely success as compared to past similar-calibre projects.
Value assurance assessments map project progress over how well it is doing. It is also a good indicator of how well it will continue to do. This indicates major pitfalls and potential risks posed to project completion. It allows teams to handle them before they occur. It is also strategic, as it helps map the course of the project throughout its lifetime.
Black swan risks are all about scheduling. Ineffective management plans that push projects by too much run higher risks. Project teams do not simply develop strategies that achieve the goal within budget. they must also do so within the stipulated time frame. Value assessments ensure teams do not sacrifice project integrity for these goals either. Effective projects need to align with other, similar undertakings. They should also be delivering in response to business needs.
This diagnostic approach also identifies improvement areas. These can even relate to areas that don’t seem to be presenting a problem, but leave room for greater efficiency. Identifying major problems and risks helps arrange for timely alternatives. In this case, before projects blow past their budget and schedule limits. Beyond a certain point, a project becomes unsavable for a business. It drives up costs, using resources and delivering next to nothing.
This four-dimensional approach is known to lead to effective project management. Its implementation has seen large-scale project completion on-budget and on-schedule. The necessary factor is the involvement of all parties in achieving business interests. They can certainly be a worthwhile business investment when properly managed.