The future of your business depends on IT.
While there will be organisations that are confident ‘the old ways’ are still superior, the vast number of digital transformation examples is telling.
Therefore, no business is too good to avoid updating, refreshing and rethinking the involvement of IT within their company – hence the importance of IT projects.
IT projects are the means in which, whether small or large, organisations can satisfy business objectives. While this may seem like the simple part of the equation, the methods used to actually implement these activities is where they fall down.
So much so that one in three business leaders think they are already over-spending on digital projects.
With this in mind, here you will find a list of the essential tips, and previous examples of achieving success.
What percentage of IT projects are on time and on budget?
Despite the massive rush of completing large-scale IT projects, there has been a real failure to succeed on multiple fronts.
A study from McKinsey and University of Oxford demonstrates that large projects tend to:
- Run 45 percent over budget
- Be 7 percent over time
- Deliver 56 percent less value than predicted
Even more so – 17 percent of IT projects go so bad that they can threaten the very existence of the company.
Here are the specific percentages:
5 tips for delivering game-changing IT projects
You want to deliver innovative IT projects that put you ahead of the game. But bugs, delays and feature shortfalls can leave you playing catch up.
Don’t like the game? Here’s how to change it.
Creating an environment to succeed: the IT projects check-list
See below a high-level overview that can be used to confirm your project is heading in the right direction.
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In addition to this graphic, see below a detailed discovery into the various elements, with contextual examples.
1. Be agile
In modern project management, agile is king.
More and more companies are moving from traditional waterfall projects to user-focused, iterative project management – and for good reason.
Agile projects greatly accelerate time to market by reducing the delay between alpha and beta testing and delivering a viable product. Swap lengthy processes for smaller, faster scrum teams that run through sprint cycles to deliver smaller but functional feature improvements on a repeatable basis.
This way of working is made far easier with various advantages of cloud computing. For example, if you look at the benefits of running models in Microsoft Azure, whereby you are able to see how changes could respond at a global scale.
2. Accept the mistakes
You will hit a roadblock. In fact, you will likely hit several of them and often all at the same time.
No project in history has found success without overcoming some problem along the way.
Take NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter – it crashed because two teams used different units of measurement. It happens. It was a very expensive error to make, but it didn’t stop NASA from launching future missions. Accept the mistake, learn from it and move on.
Tap into NASA’s experience with this list of 100 rules for project managers.
3. Get the timing right
You have an idea for a game-changing IT project but the timing isn’t right just now.
The important thing to do in this situation is to step back. Don’t press on with the project, despite how keen you are to start – prioritise.
Take underground trains. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Doug Most explains that the first underground train opened in London in 1863. It used steam power, which was ‘filthy, sooty and smoky’. As such, the concept wasn’t brought into America ‘until electrification was perfected’ 30 years later.
Sometimes, a little patience breeds a much cleaner, smarter outcome.
Similarly, you sometimes need to accept that what you’ve got now is more interesting than what you might build later. For example, Flickr started life as a tool for an online multi-player game. Sometimes pivoting is smarter than persistence.
4. Avoid scope creep
The key to delivering a game-changing IT project is keeping within your initial scope.
Of course, if you realise that what you’re trying to achieve is impossible then a scope change is necessary.
5. Be bold
When it comes to true visionaries of today, the first that comes to mind is Elon Musk.
He has achieved an incredible amount of innovation from PayPal to landing a rocket on a boat.
In this TED Talk, he discusses his electric car and SpaceX ventures, but towards the 19-minute mark (though we recommend watching the full video) he gets into his ‘framework of thinking’ that is vital for anyone who wants to change the game.
Why IT projects fail
In addition to knowing how to succeed, it is valuable to understand the common means in which digital transformation examples have failed.
They provide a great grounding as to key matters that you cannot avoid.
This article on why IT projects go wrong should help you mitigate their failures. In short, the five most common issues are;
- You’re not testing early enough
- You’re not getting an outside perspective
- You haven’t set clear enough goals
- You’re not committing to a methodology
- You’re not updating
Further reading: see how the titan of Kodak joined the list of those who failed to adapt.
Our approach to an outcome based solution framework
In order to plan, achieve and review ‘game changing IT projects’, we have created a framework that has continually proved to be essential to drive outcome-based success.
Please see the 5 stages we abide by:
1. Discovery & analysis
The part of the process is often rushed, or not truly valued, however, without clearly articulating the desired outcomes on any project, you will end up creating change for changes sake.
Regrettably, this then creates a lack of faith from those who must sign-off on further works, and inhibits future success.
This stage involves:
- Requirements understood/ prioritised
- Full & documented understanding of problem statement and desired outcomes
- Sizing following phases
- Detailed panning
2. Design & PoC
The proof of concept is frequently the most questioned part of the projects we get involved in. In reality, it provides a concrete journey and plan.
Importantly, it also enables a great framework should certain personnel leave.
This stage involves:
- Migration process understood and engineered
- Prototype environments built (where applicable)
- System testing and acceptance
This tends to be the point in time where theories and suggestions are put to test and it comes down to initial user tests.
While it may seem fairly obvious, we have frequently heard of projects where the actual interaction of users wasn’t an essential metric. Should this occur, you frequently find that despite attempts, little transformation is achieved.
This stage involves:
- Environment fully built to specification
- User acceptance tests
- Adoption program/ training
- Migration tools and processes ready
Transitioning IT projects is a case of creating a safe solution that doesn’t disturb the behaviours of workers, that possibly through a staggered approach, implements the agreed build.
This stage involves:
- Migration plans and communications
- Business adoption and on-boarding
Lastly, with operation, you must consider the managing of the project in context of possible adjustments that occur post-transition.
This ensures that there aren’t any sour taste left, and that you can, as per stage one, align to business objectives.
This stage involves:
- Managed service
- System run books
- IT handover
- Project closure
IT project examples
Having outlined the various tips, and common errors results from these projects, here are a couple of very impactful examples.
No more flying
Firstly we have the matter of 17,000 planes which were grounded at Los Angeles International Airport because of a software related issue.
Like many large outages, this was caused because a very simple piece of technology hit systems at United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) agency – a network card.
This faulty device continually sent incorrect data across the network, rather than shutting down. Regrettably, this lead to the entire network failing, whereby no passengers could leave or enter that airport for 8 hours.
As such, all could have been mitigated if the infrastructure used was more cautiously considered, as here, like many similar cases, one small failure can results on their entire mission toppling.
Continuing with the theme of flying, there was the construction of the Airbus A380, which was pushed back more than a year because the two organisations working on separate halves of the plane used different versions of the same software.
Ultimately, when the two halves were brought together, the wiring didn’t match.
Bugs or flaws are inevitable in an IT project. The longer you wait to perform testing, however, the later you will find faults and the more likely they are to derail your project.
There’s really no excuse not to run tests early. If you find nothing you can rest easy, but if you do find a problem you can resolve it before it causes trouble.
Summary: IT projects need to be well considered
The winner takes it all.
The real competitors in business are the ones who look for ways to beat the game they’re playing. It won’t be easy, and it sure won’t happen overnight, but when you win it’s definitely worth the effort. So don’t just play along; be a game-changer.
In short: thoroughly consider all aspects of future IT projects and the value they would provide.
Read next > Why IT Projects Go Wrong
This post was originally published on May 10, 2016. It has been updated with more examples and tips.