Five things to consider before starting an IT project

What do you do before you embark on an IT project? Here are a few tips from a pro

The Future Group is one of India's biggest retailers with around 1,000 stores. A company arm, Future Media, creates media properties within these stores which involves experimenting with new technologies. The company's IT team is currently working on different projects, and based on our experience, here are five points a CIO should consider before commencing a new project.

Clarity. Before starting any IT project, it should be mandatory to have clarity on questions such as 'What do we want to do?' and 'What do we want to achieve?' Along with these, one should also take care of the business goals and check how the IT project would eventually work toward meeting these goals. For this, it is crucial for the CIO and his team to understand the business requirements which can be known by constant communication with the business users from different teams. This exercise will bring in clarity of thought.

Co-alignment with the organization's vision. At the Future Group, our vision is to enhance the customer's shopping experience across our stores. All our deployments are done keeping this vision in mind. Recently, we completed an ambitious IT project where we deployed a digital signage system in three phases starting from 2007, 2008 and 2009. The project is one of its kind, and is the biggest retail digital signage deployment in India. The system powers Future TV which is deployed across 150 stores in 38 cities and covers 1,600 screens. We ensured that this IT project meets the organization's vision of building awareness, creating focused content, and increasing collaboration with advertisers.  
Outside--the-box thinking. Thinking different is the need of the hour. We are in the process of deploying interactive technology which is based on human gestures. We have named it GestureTek. It is one of the world's most advanced gesture recognition solutions for motion-control interactive displays, signs and surfaces. It is the first time that this technology has been deployed simultaneously at 10 locations across the country; it is centrally controlled from a network in Mumbai. But one should not deploy a technology just because everyone else in the industry is going in for the same; rather, it should clearly meet business objectives.

Commercial viability. A lot of companies have cut their budgets for IT projects, so CIOs should now focus more on commercially viable technologies and services without sacrificing the quality of the product. More stress should be placed on evaluating different vendors, understanding their offerings, and figuring out what value can they provide to the deal. 
Don't deploy a technology just because everyone else in the industry is going in for the same.
Long-term perspective. It is always advisable to have a long-term plan in place rather than go in for an IT project with short-term benefits. Defining project milestones well in advance can help in defining long-term goals. An IT project should meet the expectations of the management, users and customers, hence the initial phase of a project is also critical for a CIO. 

The author has been with the Future Group since 2007. He has over 14 years of IT experience in the broadcast industry. Earlier, he was a part of the core project team of the IT group at the Times of India
(As told to Yuga Chaudhari)

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