Approximately 1 out of every 5 IT projects is considered an utter failure. Even success has a lot of nuance, with only 29 percent of projects considered unqualified successes. The IT industry has been plagued with low-performance rates and slow project completion for decades. When these projects succeed, your business operates more smoothly and often at a much lower cost. Digital transformation is an increasingly important target for today’s businesses and you can’t afford to be faced with a cycle of failures. That’s why you’ll want to implement a few strategies to keep your IT projects on track all the way to the finish line.
1. Set the scope upfront
One of the biggest challenges to any project is the lack of a clear target. Before you put together the team, or start designing, put together a comprehensive plan that defines the scope of the project, includes milestones, and has a detailed budget. Every IT project is a risk, but you can mitigate them. The more you know about what you want to accomplish, the better prepared you are when it comes time to create your team. Also, getting all stakeholders onboard means less pushback later when it comes time to deliver.
2. Build a solid team with the right manager
A lot of businesses fall into the more is better trap when it comes to team building. Bigger teams mean more moving parts and the potential for more problems. Keep your teams trim, with just enough people to get the job done. Make sure that your team has the right mix of skills, and try to keep it to 10 people or less. More than that and management becomes a challenge as things get overlooked. If you don’t have all of the expertise you need in-house, consider an IT consultant to help bridge the gap.
3. Determine the minimum project requirements
Sure, you put together that big plan with all of the things you’d like to see come with this project. Now, cut it to the bone. Decide on the few most important functions that can determine success or failure. If the rest happens, great, but knowing your bare minimum can often mean the difference between finishing a project and getting lost in the shuffle.
4. Set firm, regular milestones
While the long-term milestones you set up during planning are a great guideline, you need smaller, and more consistent, guidelines for your frontline team. Regular meetings and clear deadlines are a necessity when putting together a big project.
5. Be clear about duties and responsibilities
One of the biggest challenges facing any project is the division of responsibilities. Often, one part of the project will be dependent on another. If one team member is slow to deliver, it can back up your entire calendar. Make sure every member of the team knows what they are working on and when it is due. This can help avoid roadblocks and keep the work flowing smoothly.
6. Monitor, don’t micromanage
Every team member knows the eventual goal and scope of your project. They also have a list of immediate tasks that will work toward the eventual goal. Schedule regular meetings to discuss progress, but don’t spend a lot of time in one-on-ones. Remember, if they are tied up in meetings with the project manager, they can’t be working on the deliverables you need for the next phase. Let them manage their time, but make sure they know support is available if needed. And, outsource when necessary. Sometimes you just need a little extra help when handling a major project.
7. Project management software is critical for IT projects
A shared calendar, easy access to project documents and real-time editing capability all make project management software a big player in any successful IT project. Even when all of your team members are in the same office, sharing a digital workspace can streamline everything. No one wants to spend an hour scrolling through emails to find the specs for a single piece of the project, and when everything is centralized, including communications, they don’t have to.
8. Combat scope creep, not change
Sometimes, goals change mid-project. It happens. You need to be flexible about your project, so you can ride those shifts. However, changes don’t always equate more work, just different work. With scope creep, what you are expected to deliver seems to grow with time. When asked to make a change, remember to balance anything added to the project with something that is being cut. Failing to reign in the scope of a project is one of the leading reasons so many fail. Stick to the basics.
9. Celebrate successful milestones
Your teams need positive reinforcement when they are meeting your goals. A social event or a simple congrats email can go a long way toward keeping team motivation high. It is easy to lose sight of the small victories when you have a long project calendar, so take the time to celebrate the successes along the way.
Clear goals, a roadmap to accomplishing them, and the right team are all necessary ingredients for a successful IT project. Don’t let your digital transformation get lost in constantly changing goals or stuck trying to hit a moving target. By following these steps and implementing a comprehensive plan that includes a margin of error, you can help set your projects up for success.