Monday, February 08, 2010

4 keys to a successful project

According to a study from last year, 1 in 4 IT projects fail completely, and only 32 percent of IT projects were considered a success. If you’re starting a new IT project in the near future, that has to be a bit unsettling. The question: What must you do to ensure success?

For example, pretend that your company needs a new reporting solution, and you’re in charge of the project. What factors are most critical to the project’s success? I’ve identified 4 of the most important factors:

Strategy: Before looking for reporting software, before you do anything else, you must formulate a strategy. What are you trying to achieve? What data do you plan on using? What capabilities do you need in the reporting software? A good plan is key to the success of any project. Even the best product will fail if there’s no supporting strategy behind it. In fact, strategy is such an important topic, I’ve devoted an entire blog post to the subject, which you can find here.

Product: Just like a bad strategy, inferior software can be detrimental to a project. The right product should have two important characteristics: Functionality and ease of use. From a functionality perspective, don’t take the salesman’s word for it. Make him demonstrate the software to your satisfaction. Ease of use is equally important, which leads me into my next point…

People: Who is going to be using the product? If the users don’t want to use the software, the project will fail. While widely overlooked, user adoption is just as important as the product. If you buy powerful software that is too complicated for the users, the project will fail. Try to involve a few select users during product review in order to avoid a catastrophe.

Training/Support: Without the proper training and support, the project could be doomed. First, who is leading the training? Will they customize training for your specific needs? Secondly, what kind of support do they offer? Is it outsourced? Ideally, you want support that is in-house, staffed with knowledgeable consultants who can not only answer questions about the software, but questions about applying the software to your business.

Failed projects waste time and cost money, sometimes millions of dollars.  If you want to give your project that best chance of success, pay attention to each of these factors. Don’t focus on one area and completely ignore the others: A successful project incorporates all of the above.


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