How to ensure IT projects deliver against business expectation

The growing popularity of fast solutions, cloud and mobile projects, offer the promise of quick fixes to business challenges.

The same fundamental rules of delivery still apply and, unless the right preparation is done, and the business requirements are clearly defined, then the project can be doomed to fall short of expectation.

IT departments are usually brought into a project to specify, build, test and deliver. Involving them in the earliest stages of project definition and development can result in better use of resources and ensure that the project aligns more closely with business objectives.

Evaluation  
Even before the planning stage of a project is underway, effective evaluation is the first component of successful IT projects.

Proper evaluation of ideas should define their real business value. Many IT projects under-deliver because they are not  properly assessed, prioritised or evaluated before the work actually starts.

Unless any potential ideas for improvement are prioritised and aligned with the business objectives, then IT departments can be faced with a deluge of disparate projects, vying for their attention. 

This first stage is critical to ensure, right from the outset, that the IT department's time and resources are used in the most effective way.

By establishing first that a project idea is sound, it can then be prioritised against a timeline which aligns with the organisation's overall roadmap.

Preparation  
Preparation should be conducted along a structured methodology that comprises three core components:

Define: Set objectives and clearly establish the scope of the project. map it out a series of architectures and processes. Assess potential operational disruption and set its context with other projects in the programme.

Related:

Design: If the design is not appropriate then the project will fail to deliver. The checklist for 'design' should always include:
1 Project activate
2 Record 'as-is'
3 Analyse 'as-is'
4 Design solutions   
5 Record 'to-be'
6 Propose change

Verification: Essentially the control mechanism for the preparation stage of a project, for example, ensuring that processes are in place to shape change and analyse the impact, so that plans can be revised accordingly.

Governance  
Ensuring that continuous governance is built into project delivery enables a more structured approach to issue resolution.

Governance should be managed by the IT function because it is closest to the project delivery and should comprise:   
 - Reporting on the status of the project, including the activities, any issues and risks
 - Reviewing any measures that need to be taken against these issues 

Communication  
At every stage, communication lines need to be kept open, with all stakeholders involved, be they managers, regulators and suppliers.

Communication should include informing everyone involved of the project plan and listening to feedback from stakeholders.

If the scope of a project needs to change, appropriate action can be taken because everyone has been kept informed. The mantra for successful communication during the delivery of a project is to inform, listen and adapt.  

Whilst each project involving IT delivery has its own unique challenges, following these guiding principles can help to ensure that project plans are realistic, that resources are properly managed and that checks are in place to make changes, should this be required.

Ray Blackman is head of consulting and professional services at Attenda

Pic: br1dotcom cc2.0