Management of IT projects: Mantras for success

Project management as a service provider is different from management of IT projects as a business. This is how you can boot up faster on this front.

The maturity of business organizations when it comes to management of IT projects is an area of concern for many CIOs. CIOs lack the visibility they need into project performance, and do not know the magnitude of project delays or the reasons for these delays. Most IT projects fail or are abandoned half-way not due to technical reasons, but largely because of management issues which start from the project selection process itself. There is a need for all to understand that management of IT projects as a service provider (an IT consulting and services company) is very different from managing an IT project as a business organization.

One of the key differences is the approach towards management of IT projects. While the user organization focuses more on the project's outcome, the service provider's focus is on project delivery to specifications. The distinction between these two from a project management perspective is not clear, nor is it clarified by industry associations or proponents of project management.
There is a need to look at the entire project lifecycle from a business perspective for effective management of IT projects. Aligning the project to business objectives and defining the project's success criteria early in the lifecycle is a critical aspect. You should look at the success criteria beyond just the efficiency metrics of being on time and within budget. In fact, these are success criteria for the consulting, vendor and contractor community. The user organization should focus more on the business benefits, and not on efficiency of project execution. We are not suggesting that efficiency metrics be ignored, but that they are the responsibility of the contractor (or consultant), and that their impact on the business needs to be measured and controlled.

There is a clear need to distinguish between the various approaches adopted by business organizations or user organizations of IT when it comes to management of IT projects. Moving to a program management process approach could perhaps assist the CIOs and IT managers to appreciate this difference and improve success. Given that most projects have a business case, once the implementation is done, it is important to check whether you have achieved the business objectives. This approach is generally not followed by Indian organizations, so CIOs need to focus on this.

IT project management has moved from being a tactical discipline, and now involves the integrated discipline of program and portfolio management. There is a need to make the IT leaders, the CIOs, aware about this. The use of the traditional development lifecycles (such as SDLC) approach to the management of IT projects needs to change, at least for the user organization.

There is a clear need to distinguish between the various approaches adopted by business organizations or user organizations of IT when it comes to management of IT projects.

Based on years of experience, we have arrived at the following outcomes required for consistent and reliable management of IT project performance. We call them the "Essential Eight".

1. The IT project is defined and aligned with the business objectives of the organization.
2. The project scope and measures of success are defined along with related assumptions.

3. A schedule plan is prepared with the constraints and resources allocated to the deliverables.

4. The stakeholders are identified and an engagement plan is prepared.

5. Risks are identified and analyzed, and a response plan is prepared and monitored.

6. Issues are managed during project execution.

7. Project performance is analyzed and reported to the stakeholders.

8. Changes to the project scope and objectives are managed as well as controlled.

About the author: Ajay Parasrampuria is the founder as well as the academic director of PM Academy. He has an industry experience of 15 years. For the past eight years, he has also been teaching at the SP Jain Institute of Management & Research in Mumbai, where he heads the project management department.

(As told to Yuga Chaudhari.)

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