Achieving success in IT projects

Failure rates in technology projects are very high. Statistics show 25 percent of technology projects fail outright; 25 percent do not show any significant return on investment and up to 50 percent need major rework by the time they’re finished. Having led dozens of technical projects from large data center migrations and migrating thousands of users to non-critical infrastructure changes, I’d like to share some insights on how to produce results consistently and without fail:

Business case: Technology means nothing unless there is value for the stakeholders. Technical people love to implement new technology, but it means nothing unless there is value for stakeholders. And this could be the motivator for the team – what business value is this providing? Constantly evaluate -what’s missing? What’s not happening that this project will deliver? This seems very basic but many times, especially in large organizations, the business value does not trickle down to all team members.

Learning from mistakes: Often technical people will make mistakes and then get rebuked – what’s important is to learn from those mistakes and not to repeat them. Its okay to make mistakes and that’s the only way to learn – give it a try. What went bad and what could have been done to prevent this? This must be documented and available for review for next time.

Thinking differently: Again, seems very basic. Upper management generally gravitate towards recommended practices, but often the basic “why” and “what if” question can make the difference. Just because we’ve always put the VPN concentrator behind the DMZ does not necessarily mean that’s where it belongs – it simply means the last time when the implementation was done that’s where it made sense. What if you put the VPN out of the DMZ? What are the pros and cons? Have a reasoning for it.

Team cohesiveness: you need members in your team who are better than you and can compliment you — that’s a sure approach for success.

Reference material: Having an organized reference of information available at fingertips is vital. This could include communication plan, test plan, lessons learned, command sets, etc.

Lack of soft skills: In a lecture I attended a while back, Steven Spear, author of the book The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition, mentioned, “We score zero on gratitude. We miss the emotional element”. Oftentimes project staff will complete an endeavor successfully and there is no recognition, no complement. The project goes into the record as another success, with little motivation for the staff to repeat the success.

Tools and technology don’t solve problems, people do. In an ever-changing world that is more complex in terms of technology than ever before, the human elements are what make or break the project.

Guest article written by: Masood Rahman ([email protected]Masood has extensive experience managing enterprise level IT projects and teams at large organizations.

1) Marr, Bernard “Are These The 7 Real Reasons Why Tech Projects Fail?”, September 13, 2016. accessed November 22, 2018

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