How to avoid IT project failure: five pillars of success

Despite decades of effort and debates about best practices, businesses still struggle with IT projects that end up over budget, or worse, do not deliver a solution that the business can use after considerable investment. In fact, the Standish Group’s Chaos Report says that only 29% of IT projects succeed while 19% are considered utter failures. Because of this reality, many business leaders and IT professionals face an uphill battle when thinking about how to complete successful IT projects. Today there are dozens of development methodologies to choose from, but when first planning an IT project, there are a few pillars to establish that will help your project managers define success in the way that best suits your business.

Budget

First, unsurprisingly, is establishing a project budget, which is easily the most important step of project management. But in addition to agreeing how much to spend on the project and its phases, it is important for IT project managers to provide some real assurance or proof that they can keep the project within an established budget. When working with outside contractors or vendors, this could include providing a fixed project rate or money-back guarantee on the product and services if not satisfied with the outcome.

Timeline

Developing a project timeline is similar to outlining a project budget, and there should be an assurance of delivery or guarantee. Be cautious of vendors or project managers that over promise on delivery times to get the sale. If they do not offer any way to back up their claim, then you should look elsewhere for a solution.

Likewise, if a vendor or developer estimates an excessively long project timeline, you should also be cautious. Either the developer is overestimating the time to pad the project’s success or they do not really know how long a project while actually take. In any case, the timeline should include a detailed project roadmap that shows how the team will bring the entire project to completion as well as a realistic contingency plan if the team falls behind.

End user adoption

Establishing a strategy to ensure system adoption by end users is critical, and effort must be made early on to understand the needs of end users. When developing solutions for business processes like contract management, inviting the key contract managers or approvers into the planning process can eliminate major problems down the line. It’s common sense that the people destined to use the solution should get a voice in developing said solution.

Taking this a step further, no-code platforms allow end users to configure the solution themselves without any coding experience. In many cases, end users like contract managers can configure most of the workflows, contract clauses, and approval notifications and then someone in IT can finish the project's finer technical details. Plus, with no-code platforms, the rapid adaptability allows an iterative approach that can be tested by the end users while the solution is still being configured. This gives business stakeholders and end users a chance to give feedback and improve the system before it is complete. That is not possible with traditional, code-heavy software.

Also, when thinking ahead to user adoption, it is never too early to think about employee training and how much time and effort will be required to get departments or teams up to speed on a new software. Are you implementing a third-party software that comes complete with online training? Or will you have to pay for an entirely new training course for the system? This is yet another factor to consider in both the cost and the overall success of the project.

Business benefit

Odds are, your project’s business benefits are already outlined or at least somewhat understood—that’s why you are pursuing the project further. Whatever the status of your project, it is critical to clearly define each business goal of the project, outline them in writing, and have every stakeholder and member of the project team agree, in writing if necessary, on the project’s scope and benefit to the overall business. For IT departments that have adopted ITIL processes, this is common practice.

Long-term TCO

For software solutions, total cost of ownership could be bundled into the budget category, but it is important enough to stand on its own. Most likely, vendors will be able to offer some figures on short-term TCO but cannot predict the future of your business five years down the road. And as industry trends have shown, the more customized code built into a solution, the more maintenance will be required to keep the solution functioning as your business grows. So as code-heavy solutions age, their TCO increases.

The advantage of no-code platforms give business the adaptability and scalability to keep a solution running longer without dependence on the vendor. With a level of configurability that accommodates changing business processes and supports new applications and security protocols, no-code solutions give businesses powerful tools with a lower TCO and longer lifespan.



With this post, we have just begun to scratch the surface of fail-proofing your IT project management. Other critical steps like hiring the best team, securing key infrastructure, and creating complete requirement and engineering specifications are all discussed in the blog post ‘9 Ways to ensure IT projects succeed.’

For an even deeper dive into this topic, read our white paper ‘How to Ensure the Success of IT Projects,' which is a collation of recommendations from over 70 senior IT executives and CIOs outlining the best way to ensure project success.