IT project management tips to effectively manage 'triple constraints'

IT project failure in Indian organizations is primarily due to time, cost and scope. Suresh A Shan, the national head for business IT solutions at Mumbai's Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services Ltd., shares his project management tips.

What are the aspects that go wrong in an unsuccessful project?

More than the project, it's the information and demand for the project that usually go wrong. If the project is not delivered within the required time frame, then it's a failure. Business alignment and deliverables should also be very clear. At Mahindra Finance we see to it that all the IT projects that we implement are in sync with the above two factors.

Suresh A Shan
Suresh A Shan

One has to be clear about demand for the project and its authenticity. Every project has to be flexible for a change. Organizations and users are clear that they want the latest. A CIO has to understand the business' demand and how he can implement it within the given IT spectrum. An IT manager's job is to position his plan anticipating the needs of people who are, or will be, involved with the project.

It's a common misconception in India that a project with a longer duration will always fail. That's not the case, since even a smaller project can be unsuccessful. If you are able to meet the end result within the stipulated time and budget, then no IT project can fail.

How do you go about defining a project's scope? How does one select a vendor/consultant based on this?

The time frame of a project plan is important. For example, Mahindra Finance is a non-banking finance company catering to the rural and semi-urban sector. For us, the scope depends on convenience of users. Hence, factors like phases, modules and acceptance can differ from region to region. We ensure that a project does not go beyond six phases. It will also depend on whether the project focuses more on current issues or futuristic issues.

Before selecting a vendor, we see to it that the company has expertise in that area. It is necessary for the vendor to have a pan-Indian presence in order to give timely service and deliverables.

Can you give us some best practices for how the triple constraints (time, cost and scope) are taken care of in a project?

Timely execution is very crucial for any project plan. There are companies which do not deliver within the stipulated time, which may cost the investment that goes into a certain project's planning. Hence, one should be very up front about delivering the planned deliverables. A CIO should be very clear about his audience -- who are the people going to accept his project, who will be the users, and who will be giving the feedback. A backup plan should also be in place to accommodate non-acceptance at any level. Only then can the constraints be met.

At Mahindra Finance, how do you ensure the project management lifecycle's smooth functioning: i.e., initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing?

The general rule of thumb is that a project is defined by its needs. At Mahindra Finance, our need is to connect to different locations in India. Currently, we are present in 456 locations. Out of this, 420 to 425 locations are connected to Mumbai, where we have our centralized data center. So initiating and planning is done on the basis of requirements coming from different regions. Executing, monitoring and controlling of a project are done by the IT team.

Maintaining stability during the project management lifecycle is important. Many companies come up with a model, but the model changes by the time it is implemented.
Suresh A Shan
National Head for business IT solutionsMahindra & Mahindra Financial Services Ltd.

To handle such a vast coverage, technical experts have been appointed who handle five locations each. These people act as a CTO or CIO for that particular region, and ensure delivery of the technology and service support. Also, they will report about those five locations' requirements. This way, we are in a position to understand the situation and distinguish it on an area-wise basis. We have divided each region and classified them into different categories. So the treatment is given according to the received response. The project is closed depending on the received feedback.

Can you give us some tips on how CIOs can increase the chances of success?

Maintaining stability during the project management lifecycle is important. Many companies come up with a model, but the model changes by the time it is implemented.

Teamwork is also one of the crucial factors. Train your juniors to become the next CIOs.

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