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Non-technical factors are key to ensuring project success

Karl Schneider
The technical skills of IT managers are not vital to project success, according to the biggest study ever into the cause of IT failure.

The research conducted by Computer Weekly and process consultancy The Coverdale Organisation, involving nearly 900 senior IT professionals, has found good communication and general project management disciplines are the key to successful IT projects.

The most common factors contributing to project failures were discovered to be weaknesses in the project process and failings in the project manager rather than IT-specific or technical issues.

The top three "project killers" identified by the study, are poor time and budget estimates, unclear project objectives and project managers' poor communication skills.

IT professionals were asked to identify factors that contribute to real project failure. The result highlights which of more than 60 potential project stumbling blocks are the most likely to steer an IT project onto the rocks.

Three quarters of respondents said unrealistic estimates are a major contributor to project failures. And when it comes to finding a good IT project leader, communications and leadership skills are more important than technical knowledge, formal project management training or previous experience with similar projects, the study found.

Problems involving suppliers or other third parties did not feature at all in the top 10 major contributors to IT project failure, whereas failings concerning stakeholders and the project team rated higher as potential project killers.

Respondents identified the involvement and support of senior management as vital to IT project success.

For the project team, defining clear roles and responsibilities, teamworking and motivation are more important than technical competence or formal training, according to the study.

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