Seven Key Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Next Strategic IT Project

Avoid these pitfalls to ensure the success of your next project.
When it comes to advice on IT project management, there is plenty to be found. But when you really get down to why it is that projects fail, there are a handful of true potholes and pitfalls. If a project falls short, no amount of finger pointing can substitute for getting the job done.

Pitfall #1: The project approach fails to align itself with the problem confronting the organization. Answer these two questions: (1) What is the problem that the organization is trying to solve? (2) Are all parties in agreement and seeing the same outcome?

Unclear or unsatisfactory answers to either question could result in your project inevitably going off the rails.

Pitfall #2: Key players in the project lack the business skills, knowledge or understanding of what is needed to produce the intended IT solution. Moreover, if the deficiency involves insufficient knowledge of the new product, another question arises: How can a solution occur if the elements of its accomplishment are not understood?

This pitfall frequently is a result of a lack of reliable business and system documentation. Some organizations have pockets of people who know the process and other resources who are no longer present – creating gaps in knowledge.

Pitfall #3: The project lacks repeatable processes — i.e., a methodology. A lack of process increases the risk that crucial tasks related to the project will eventually fall through the cracks. Henry Ford figured this out when he came up with the production line approach to automobile assembly.

Strategic projects, like complicated machinery, should never be produced and delivered via the Big Bang approach. Chunk it. Deliver it in digestible phases that include documented and easily replicated processes.

Pitfall #4: The project lacks good communication as well as a clear, consistent voice. Poor communication results from: (1) the inability to manage the message through a single source and (2) allowing anyone other than the lead PM to be the spokesperson on behalf of the project.

Avoid this pitfall through a disciplined communication management plan. Project staff members need to remember the adage about loose lips sinking ships. When people treat the message or daily problems as public property and assume that they can speak on behalf of that, they could sink the project.

Pitfall #5: The plan fails to fully define the scope and the management of the plan. What separates a good project plan from a pie-in-the-sky wish list are statements of clear roles, responsibilities, accountability, deliverables with timelines, etc.

This pitfall is closely related to Pitfalls #1 and #2 above. In order to finish on time, within budget and still meet expectations, total clarity is essential.

Pitfall #6: The project stalls through lack of execution. Things linger; problems get ignored, and stakeholders might have “political” issues at the expense of the project.

The longer these things fester, the more they will negatively impact the project. Avoid this pitfall by performing ongoing risk management checks with plans on how to mitigate those risks. The lead PM must have the ability to drive to a finish.

Pitfall #7: The project lacks good leadership. Without a savvy leader at the helm, things can spiral out of control quickly.

From employees to executives, the lead PM needs to give people purpose – even if it is only for an 18 month long project. You need to have that individual who has the confidence to walk out to the end of a limb and command his/her team to “go this way,” and they do it willingly.

Those are your starting points in efficient IT project management. For those who would prefer jumping to the successful conclusion, Credo Technology Solutions is standing by. We would be happy to meet with you and discuss the delivery assurance, risk management & overall success of your future or existing projects.

Gregory Bair
CREDO Technology Solutions

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