By Dexter Duncan

A recent experience with a client got me thinking about metrics and benchmarking of IT projects. Whether you want to install a new Server, upgrade your Wide Area Network (WAN),  dive into some Business Improvements with custom software or improve your business with CRM or SharePoint (document management and intranet messaging), you need a reference to plan your budget and schedule.    If you have not had experience with similar projects, how do you know who to blame when the project is delayed or over budget?

Gartner releases key IT metrics each year drawing on thousands of IT performance benchmarks which enable clients to compare their spending and performance against best practice.

Only 57% of IT projects are completed on-time and only 67% are completed on budget?  Why?  Are the IT folks bludging?!

According to Gartners’ research the main reasons why projects are late or over budget are:

  • Poor Initial Scope
  • Resource Availability
  • Scope Creep

Laziness is in the eye of the beholder.    If you are diligent on how you define project scope, ensure stakeholders and resources are available and identify scope creep, then you are covering the main risks involved in IT projects.   IT people do not usually sit on their hands, but if they are not focused in the right areas, then it is a form of laziness.

The first step, before a budget is finalised, is to define the project scope.    A few paragraphs would be the minimum for a simple project upgrade.    A few pages are needed if you are trying to do something custom.   If you are not sure what is possible, then you need to go through the idea with your IT provider.    For software development, a business analyst documents the requirements by talking to those close to the business.   They usually capture what a user screens should look like and the actions that are needed.  A good start is to document your existing processes.

As an example, let’s say you want to streamline how you manage leave and expenses.  The first step is to capture the existing paper based process.   Answering the following questions would help define the “scope”.  Who needs to sign-off leave requests and how do you treat rejections?   What level of expense requires manager only approval, etc.  Do you need to print a confirmation or is an e-mail sufficient?   Should leave balance automatically update or will it manually be entered in you HR system?     The more automation, approval levels and complex details you build into your requirements, the more costly it will become.

The second step is to ensure stakeholders and key resources are available throughout the project.   If they are not available, you project will most certainly be delayed.   And if the key resource and stakeholders are not clear on scope for budget, they will add to the scope creep.

One of the best ways to avoid scope creep, or adding features in the middle of the project, is to leave all requests for additional features til the end of the project.  Reworking estimates and getting approvals for more money always adds to budget and schedule.

If you and/or the people on your team do not have a clear idea of scope, are not available or are adding to the scope rather than working within initial boundaries, there is a good chance your project spend and schedule will blow-out.    If you have picked your IT folks well, they will be trustworthy and love to solve your business issues, but they are unable to approve scope or ensure your resources are available.

Call your local technology partner for more advice.

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About the author: Dexter Duncan is a Division Manager at Empower IT Solutions. Contact Dexter at dd@EmpowerIT.com.au


Gartner Group, Benchmark Analytics, “IT Key Metrics Data 2011: Key Application Measures: Project Measures: Current Year”, by Jamie K Guevara, Linda Hall, Eric Stegman.

3 thoughts on “Managing IT Projects – Are the IT folks lazy?

  1. The percentage released by Gartner is a bit misleading – technically, IT projects are even more successful than construction projects, but the problem with IT projects is that the requirements are extremely fluid and the expectations are high (see most IT projects are successful).

    Regardless of the quality of any construction project, that quality can never be at part with the quality requirements and the expectations of an IT project.

    • After reading your post, I agree that the fluidity of IT projects makes them more slippery. Gartner’s findings that scope is not clearly defined and resources not being available are pertinent to the fluidity of IT projects. If screens and workflows are clearly defined and stakeholders are available at key decision points in the project, you are likely to have a project delivered on time and on budget.

      However, where your point really hits home is on the more complex end of IT projects such as producing reports (from multiple databases) and high risk items such as pays/invoicing based on complex contracts. These require more scoping time and more investment/involvement from key stakeholders.

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