Thought for the day: Plan for winning projects

Chris Purrington gives his reasons why the IT department deserves a seat on the board.

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Chris Purrington gives his reasons why the IT department deserves a seat on the board.



There is no doubt that today's IT director carries more responsibility than ever before. In a digital economy, systems failure can have dire commercial consequences.

IT managers in public sector organisations are under a huge pressure to hit strict government performance targets in return for the billions of pounds invested to date in new technology.

Unfortunately, in most cases it is de rigueur to immediately blame the IT department or contractor for failure. However, anyone close to the industry will know that this is tantamount to blaming builders for the flaws in the architect's blueprint.

This fact was borne out by a recent survey Borland conducted among 50 IT directors in the public and private sectors.

The poll found that, while almost half of firms do have a formal software development process, almost 70% of respondents did not believe it worked as they would like.

When they were asked why, nearly 40% cited poorly-defined or constantly changing requirements as the main reason for this lack of success.

This is a strong indication that there needs to be much more communication between those responsible for defining the requirements for technology projects and the front-line team in charge of execution.

All too often the requirements are written so poorly that the IT department finds it impossible to interpret the plan and therefore makes false assumptions about what is expected.

It is this breakdown in communication that is at the heart of the common failure of technology investments to run to plan, to time and to budget.

So what can be done to address this problem?

First it is critical that the IT department is fully engaged at the planning stage when the business analysts define a project's parameters according to the board's brief. This close liaison must be maintained, at regular intervals, throughout the project's life.

This will ensure that what is being built matches up to the original project blueprint and is technically robust.

It is also critical that an integrated solution is used to manage the entire software development process.

In my experience, organisations that are savvy enough to give those responsible for their systems a strategic role at the highest level, have reaped significant return on investment rewards.

Given companies' increasing commercial reliance on their digital infrastructure, combined with the continued squeeze on budgets for its development, it is surely only a matter of time before this becomes common practice across all industries and all sectors.

What do you think?

Does your IT department have a say in how your projects are planned? Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Chris Purrington is managing director at Borland UK

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