CIO tactics for IT project success

IT directors will have to promote themselves more to the board if they are to avoid the IT project setbacks of the past that have...

IT directors will have to promote themselves more to the board if they are to avoid the IT project setbacks of the past that have been widely promoted in the media.

Analyst group AMR Research conducted group interviews at the recently held IT Directors Forum and found that IT directors widely admitted that having "IT" in their job title made them unpopular within their firms because of the negativity which now surrounds IT as a corporate function.

AMR's research also asked participants why IT projects failed and how IT projects could be more easily justified to the board. AMR research director Nigel Montgomery said: "Because of bad publicity the IT function has suffered over the last three or four years. IT directors have not necessarily become ostracised, but they have become separated from the business function of the company."

IT directors told AMR that there were various tactics that could be deployed to sway the board on future IT expenditure. These included forming special steering committees involving senior management from other departments that could take IT proposals to the board.

In addition, as the role of an IT director should now be seen as a facilitator for business change involving others, the use of third parties to bring these various interests closer together was seen as a useful tool when seeking board permission.

On the question of why projects fail in the first place, IT directors told AMR there were a raft of different reasons, but to help avoid problems, IT directors should take note of the following points:
  • Define the parameters of project success at the start.
  • The IT department should not position itself, or be regarded, as a separate function to the business.
  • Project success and/or failure is often due to "people" issues rather than a technology - business focused project management is therefore required.
  • Senior executive backing is a key component for success.
  • User involvement helps show benefits rather than features, aiding support and adoption.
  • The exact nature of the project methodology itself is less important than the need to have one.
  • Some trade-off decisions are necessary, including deadlines versus quality.
  • Achieving short deadlines and quick wins requires crisis management, but provides increased credibility and support.
Montgomery said: "IT directors should learn from the mistakes that have been made in the past, and make it a priority to make sure their role is seen as an important business thing and not seen as a boxes in the corner thing."

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