The top seven mistakes IT executives make

Global IT spending is forecast to increase slightly this year. But will IT executives spend the money effectively?

According to a recent Gartner report, IT spending worldwide will reach £1.7trn this year, marking a 3.9% increase from 2011. That is good news for IT managers, as it means more money will flow to fund projects and programmes. But will IT executives spend the money effectively?

CIOs concentrate a majority of their efforts on identifying the right strategies for IT implementations that eventually turn into projects and programmes. An organisation’s ability to execute these often large and visible efforts is what distinguishes project success from project failure. Far too often, however, CIOs commit project management blunders along the way. 

The seven most common mistakes are listed below, along with tips on how to avoid them.

1. Lack of communication to project managers

Many CIOs do not explain the connection of IT projects to the overall business strategy or articulate the value of an IT project on the company vision.

Tip: Ask yourself, why are we undertaking this initiative and what is the expected outcome? Then tell your IT managers.

2. Mismanaged strategies for change

CIOs must view projects as change initiatives. It is not about rearranging the set-up in a call centre, for instance, but rather the impact that arrangement will have on an employee’s workflow that will determine the success or failure of a new initiative. People need to understand why something new has been introduced, especially if the "old way" worked fine.

Tip: Motivate your project managers by explaining the greater context, and recognise that change doesn’t happen overnight.

3. Wanting results without taking time for planning

CIOs often demand a time schedule or a budget that is based on project-irrelevant data points. This is the cat-and-mouse game that project leaders and IT executives play – doubling the number because you know "they" will cut any number you give by one-third.

Tip: Allow time for planning based on realistic expectations for your manager... and for yourself.

4. No consideration for risk

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Smart CIOs allow a "range" approach for time and cost. A well-planned project considers best and worst case scenarios from a realistic standpoint. Design a plan with the top 10 risks and the associated additional cost for each. Proper risk management is key for decision-making. 

Tip: Ask for an estimate that considers all identified risks.

5. Sudden amnesia

While CIOs may have a risk assessment plan, they are often surprised when they actually have to pay for those risks. 

Tip: Do what you say you will do. If a project leader presents the top risk with a price tag of an additional £1m, and it occurs, fund it.

6. A finger in every pie

CIOs are at the top for a reason. They have technological know-how. But an IT executive needs other skills too, such as delegation, critical thinking and leadership. Let your IT managers do their job while you do yours.

Tip: Cultivate top project manager talent as a knowledge base so it’s there when you need it.

7. Hope is not a strategy

Project managers are an optimistic bunch. They tend to assume the best case scenario over reality.

Tip: Schedule regular updates and an actionable status report that identifies issues and challenges as early as possible.

About the author:
Ravi Sahi is regional director of Client Solutions for Asia at ESI International. He has consulted and delivered project, programme, and portfolio management training at all organisational levels. He has an MBA in finance, holds a master’s certification in project management from The George Washington University, and is a Stanford Certified Project Manager (SCPM). Sahi is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and speaks regularly at PMI events.

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