Why IT Projects Fail: Three Steps to Implementation Success
Approaching a large IT implementation project can be a daunting prospect. In addition to managing the expenses, timelines, logistics and vendors, you have to consider change management and user expectations. The numbers don’t help maintain a sense of optimism, either. According to The Standish Group’s 2018 CHAOS Report, only 26% of waterfall projects are implemented successfully on time and under budget.
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There are several reasons why implementation projects can fail when it comes to time and budget, including incomplete requirements, a lack of user participation, and a shortage of resources. JAGGAER’s decades of experience implementing procurement solutions provide a unique perspective on IT projects, why they fail, and what you can do to prevent your project from succumbing to the same fate
As purchasers seek to differentiate between vendors, they often add superfluous requests to RFPs, inadvertently setting high expectations that can’t always be met.
Gaining input from actual end users during the design phase of a new IT project is crucial to making sure you reach all your goals quickly. Projects often fail from a lack of user participation or users having unrealistic expectations of outcomes. Frequently, unrealistic user expectations come directly from the RFP process. As purchasers seek to differentiate between vendors, they often add superfluous requests into RFPs, inadvertently setting high expectations that can’t always be met.
With the appropriate user input, IT teams and project managers can get a more accurate understanding of what end users need from a solution and set expectations accordingly. And when users feel engaged with, they’re more likely to embrace the solution and participate in testing, feedback, and adoption. Requirements change constantly and having a finger on the pulse of your users is key. As the Project Management Institute writes, “Projects are less likely to fail if there are informed customers giving meaningful input during every phase of requirements elicitation, product description and implementation.”
Getting input does not, however, mean that you will always accommodate every user request. Managing the expectations of your users means clearly communicating which of their demands can be accommodated and what a realistic timeline might look like. Sometimes it means saying no, but it’s always better to ask and have the information available to better inform your implementation process.
Get the Staffing Right
Making sure you have the right team available to handle the project might seem like an obvious requirement, but it can often go overlooked. In truth, personnel can make or break an IT project, since many projects fail to meet their goals because of a shortage of resources. JAGGAER has frequently seen projects where the staffing does not match the project scope, leaving items unfinished or deadlines unmet.
Having the right size team is only half the battle. The second step is ensuring that you have the right people filling those seats. JAGGAER SVP of Operations, DACH, Michael Rösch, insists that you need to have a domain expert on the planning and implementation team, especially when it comes to the previously mentioned expectation management. It’s not helpful to have a requirements manager that doesn’t have domain expertise. Keeping the team small and powerful, Rösch suggests, can keep projects moving quickly without overworked individuals or overcomplicated staff meetings. For procurement projects, he suggests a project manager/scrum master, a senior purchasing manager who has decision power and process knowledge, one key user who has some affinity for IT basics, and one IT expert. With just a four-person team, most projects can be implemented efficiently.
Focus on Outcomes
The third key to a successful implementation is to focus on the outcomes, not internal history, politics, or processes. At the end of the day, an IT project largely exists to improve the lives of your users, and while it is important to ensure compatibility, security, and compliance, getting too bogged down in internal goals can be detrimental. Instead, focus on the outcomes of the project and how they relate to the industry as a whole. In many cases the user standard is not equal to the industry standard and it’s vital to look at the two and decide where your project is aimed.
Focus on the outcomes, not internal history, politics, or processes.
Trying to fit a new solution into existing, historically grown processes inherently limits the impact of the project by constraining it to the role the previous solution played. In fact, PwC’s 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey shows 58% of business and IT leaders saw inflexible or slow processes as the cause of failed IT projects. Instead, look at how the new solution can inform updated or revolutionized processes, bringing your entire workflow, not just your software, up to date. Look outside of your organization for best practices, expert advice, and solution partners that have rich experience in the industry to guide your implementation. Looking inward and not outward will stunt the development of the solution you’re putting heavy time and financial investment into.