Info

Source: Adapted from The Standish Group, CHAOS (West Yarmouth, MA: 1995), http://www. standi shgroup .com /vis¡tor/chaos.htm.

Source: Adapted from The Standish Group, CHAOS (West Yarmouth, MA: 1995), http://www. standi shgroup .com /vis¡tor/chaos.htm.

unpopular project and more and more resources are diverted away from it. The project is barely successful, or a failure.

Improving the Likelihood of Success

How can we improve the chances for IT project success and avoid repeating past mistakes? Here are three approaches that will be focal points throughout this book.

A Socio-Technicnl Approach In the past, organizations have attempted to improve the chances of IT project success by focusing on the tools, techniques, and methodologies of IT development. A purely technical approach, however, focuses attention on the technology. We can easily end up developing an application that no one asked for or needs. Applications to support electronic commerce, supply chain management, and integration require that at least equal attention be paid to the organizational side. The days of being good order takers are over. We can no longer be content with defining a set of user requirements, disappearing for several months, and then knocking on the user's door when it is time to deliver the new system. IT professionals must understand the business and be actively creative in applying the technology in ways that bring value to the organization. Similarly, the clients must become stakeholders in the project. This means actively seeking and encouraging their participation, involvement, and vision. The successful application of technology and the achievement of the project's goal must be an equal responsibility of the developers and users.

TAXPAYERS PAY $50 BILLION A YEAR FOR IRS MISTAKES

A Computerworld investigation reports that delays in overhauling the federal tax system have cost the U.S. government approximately $50 billion a year in uncol-lected taxes. Although the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to modernize its computer systems, critics claim that much of that money has been wasted because of mismanagement and primitive development practices. Government and private groups believe that there are several reasons for the problems:

• Failure to redesign the business processes before beginning systems development

• No overall systems architecture or development plan

• Primitive and sometimes "chaotic" software devel opment methodologies

• Failure to manage information systems as invest ments

• Lack of information security

Both Congress and the General Accounting Office have directed the IRS to carry out the following recommendations:

• Put in place a rigorous process for selecting, priori tizing, controlling, and evaluating major information systems investments

• Improve system development practices from ad hoc to ones that can be repeated and improve the likeli hood of success

• Develop organization-wide plans that focus on an integrated systems architecture, security, data archi tecture, and configuration management

SOURCE: Adapted from Gary H. Anthes, "IRS Project Failures Cost Taxpayers $50B Annually," Computerworld, October 14, 1996, http://www.computerworld.eom/news/1996/story/0,11280,10332 ,00.html.

A Project-Management Approach One suggestion of the CHAOS study was the need for better project management. But, isn't building an information system a project? Haven't organizations used project management in the past? And aren't they using project management now? While many organizations have applied the principles and tools of project management to IT projects, many more—even today—build systems on an ad hoc basis. Success or failure of an IT project depends largely on who is, or is not, part of the project team. Applying project management principles and tools across the entire organization, however, should be part of a methodology—the step-by-step activities, processes, tools, quality standards, controls, and deliverables that are defined for the entire project. As a result, project success does not depend primarily on the team, but more on the set of processes and infrastructure in place. A common set of tools and controls also provides a common language across projects and the ability to compare projects throughout the organization.

In addition, other reasons for project management to support IT projects include:

• Resources—When developing or purchasing an information system, all IT projects are capital projects that require cash and other organizational resources. Projects must be estimated accurately, and cost and schedules must be controlled effectively. Without the proper tools, techniques, meth ods, and controls in place, the project will drain or divert resources away from other projects and areas of the organization. Eventually, these uncon trolled costs could impact the financial stability of the organization.

• Expectations—Today, organizational clients expect IT professionals to deliver quality products and services in a professional manner. Timely sta tus updates and communication, as well as sound project management prac tices, are required.

• Competition—Internal and external competition has never been greater. An internal IT department's services can easily be outsourced if the quality or

Many people find it easier to avoid failure than accept it. Yet, failure can be helpful and, at times, even desirable. Failure can be a valuable experience because one can learn more from failure than from success since the benefits of taking risks often outweigh the consequences of failure. In addition, Harold Kerzner makes three points about failure:

or the technology needed for the project does not exist or cannot be invented cost-effectively within a reasonable time period.

Many people find it easier to avoid failure than accept it. Yet, failure can be helpful and, at times, even desirable. Failure can be a valuable experience because one can learn more from failure than from success since the benefits of taking risks often outweigh the consequences of failure. In addition, Harold Kerzner makes three points about failure:

3. Excellence in project management requires a continuous stream of successfully managed projects. But you can still have project failures.

or the technology needed for the project does not exist or cannot be invented cost-effectively within a reasonable time period.

1. A company is not taking enough business risks if its projects are 100 percent successful.

SOURCE: Adapted from Alan S. Horowitz, "The Sweet Smell of Failure," Computer-world, http://www.computerworld.com/home /online9676.nsf/all/980209; Harold Kerzner, In Search of Excellence in Project Management: Successful Practices in High Performance Organizations (New York: John Wiley, 1998).

2. Terminating a project early can be viewed as suc cessful if the resources originally dedicated to the project can be reassigned to more profitable activities cost of providing IT services can be bettered outside the organization. Today, competition among consultants is increasing as they compete for business and talent.

• Efficiency and Effectiveness—Peter Drucker, the well-known management guru, defined efficiency as doing the thing right and effectiveness as doing the right thing. Many companies report that project management allows for shorter development time, lower costs, and higher quality. Just using project management tools, however, does not guarantee success. Project management must become accepted and supported by all levels within the organization, and continued commitment in terms of training, compensation, career paths, and organizational infrastructure must be in place. This support will allow the organization to do the right things and do them right.

A Knowledge-Management Approach A socio-technical approach and a commitment to project management principles and practices are important for success. However, excellence in IT project management for an individual or an organization takes time and experience. Knowledge management is a relatively new area. It is a systematic process for acquiring, creating, synthesizing, sharing, and using information, insights, and experiences to transform ideas into business value. Although many organizations today have knowledge management initiatives under way, and spending on knowledge management systems is expected to increase, many others believe that knowledge management is just a fad or a buzzword.

What about learning from experience? Experience can be a great teacher. These experiences and the knowledge gained from these experiences, however, are often fragmented throughout the organization. Chances are that if you encounter what appears to be a unique problem or situation, someone else in your organization has already dealt with that problem, or one very similar. Wouldn't it be great to just ask that person what they did? What the outcome was? And, would they do it again the same way? Unfortunately, that person could be on the other side of the world or down the hall—and you may not even know!

Knowledge and experience, in the form of lessons learned, can be documented and made available through the technologies accessible today, technologies such as the World Wide Web or local versions of the web called intranets. Lessons learned that document both reasons for success and failure can be valuable assets if maintained and used properly. A person who gains experience is said to be more mature. Similarly, an organization that learns from its experiences can be more mature in its processes by taking those lessons learned and creating best practices—simply, doing things in the most efficient and effective manner. In terms of managing IT projects, managing knowledge in the form of lessons learned can help an organization develop best practices that allow all of the project teams within the organization to do the right things and then to do them right. As summarized in the CHAOS report:

There is one aspect to be considered in any degree of project failure. All success is rooted in either luck or failure. If you begin with luck, you learn nothing but arrogance. However, if you begin with failure and learn to evaluate it, you also learn to succeed. Failure begets knowledge. Out of knowledge you gain wisdom, and it is with wisdom that you can become truly successful (Standish Group 1995, 4).

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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