Although the importance and the need for innovation and delivery through information technology have grown in recent years, some of the IT delivery requests do not yield the results and the benefits expected by the customers involved. It is crucial to understand why.
During 2017 we have conducted surveys to get feedback from business units on their assessment of the quality of the IT delivery during the year. The results of the surveys were balanced in relation to the effectiveness of IT delivery, but a few common themes were consistently highlighted which need to be addressed as critical areas of weakness and which will be discussed in this article.
We mainly identified top four shortfalls of IT delivery:
I) Lack of a clear “agreement” between the IT team and the business units:
Often business units will go directly into finding the solution to an issue without thoroughly understanding the problem that is being addressed or the benefits of the solution. In order for an IT delivery to be successful an “Agreement document” needs to be prepared and accepted by the business unit with a clear description of the problem and a clear business case which includes a clear definition of the success factors for the project implementation.
An agreement document does not have to be a long drawn document, as the project document would include the details, but it is required to ensure that the final output of the IT delivery will meet the business unit’s request and ensure that both sides have a common understanding of the problem and of the relative solution. The document should include at least the following items:
- Executive Summary.
- Deliverables (outputs).
- Milestones: The milestones can be of type Customer Acceptance, Progress Measure, External Dependency and Benefits Realization. Milestones can occur beyond the end date of the initiative, especially for Benefit Realization. There should be at least 3 customer satisfaction milestones, at the start, middle and end.
- Budget and estimated costs.
- Quality assurance: In addition to the standard quality assurance criteria, this section should include measurable success factors and define if an IT delivery is considered successful or not. If a project cannot identify the success factors needed for the successful implementation, the scope of the project could easily change during the implementation and the quality of the final phase of the project could easily be argued as there are no established measures of success. It is essential to have a measurable definition of the scope and what constitutes a successful implementation of the IT delivery.
Without a documented agreement from the business units, IT delivery could easily become less effective or even a failure due to delayed implementation, changes in scope or disagreements on what is expected from the required delivery.
II) Weak Project Management
In general project managers need to be able to manage and coordinate all of the project logistics. Many of the project managers in IT usually focus on the delivery of the technological solution and do not address many other factors that are essential for successful IT delivery such as:
- Planning (activities and resources)
- Defining Scope
- Time Estimating
- Cost Estimating
- Developing a Budget
- Managing Risks and Issues
- Monitoring and Reporting Progress
- Controlling Quality
- Benefits Realization
While the above list seems to be obvious and is documented in every project management methodology, numerous IT deliveries fail as the project manager focuses on a subset of the above and is not able to balance all of the above responsibilities. The project manager should focus on enabling the business unit’s expectations, delivery dates and should be able to differentiate between scope creep and valid user concerns if he/she wants to improve efficacy and reduce the number of project failures.
III) Lack of adequate Planning:
In general, the performance of successful delivery is directly related to the effectiveness of the planning phase. Unfortunately, many IT teams are not patient and do not take the adequate time to have the thorough plan to achieve the requested goals. The lack of planning usually results in an untimely delivery of the solution, improper scope or objective delivered, and overspending the agreed cost/budget.
Most plans of successful projects had realistic milestones with unrealistic timeline; or they’ll use outdated planning model that has nothing to do with today’s business environment. IT delivery plans need to match with current business unit’s trends, organizational objectives, as well as the end users’ needs. If they don’t, the project will quickly be doomed to fail.