According to McKinsey & Co, the average IT project is 45% over budget, 7% over time, and delivers 56% less value than initially set out. Just one of those mismanaged projects can jeopardise the entire future of your business. Word travels fast, which also rings true for negative word-of-mouth.
To get a head start and help you successfully manage IT projects, here are a couple of key considerations to take into account.
Agile vs. Waterfall: a plan-driven or an adaptive approach?
Today, agile and Waterfall are two of the most prominent IT project management methodologies.
The more traditional one of the two, Waterfall, applies a top-down, sequential approach to project management. The goal: eliminating risk and uncertainty to you as a business upfront. But as a disadvantage your customer will only get to see and interact with the end product, well, at the very end.
As a relatively new counterpart, Agile has grown in popularity thanks to its change-driven approach. It provides teams with the ability to quickly adapt to changes and change the course of a project. In an Agile approach - often implemented using Scrum - you split projects into discrete phases that each conclude with a tangible deliverable.
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Which approach is right for you?
That’s mostly up to you. But a traditional, plan-driven approach usually implies big upfront investments in analysis, design, development, and so on before a first deliverable reaches your customer. The further in the project you get, the bigger the investment will be, and the smaller the possibility to change.
Adaptive approaches minimise the investment upfront by executing the entire process in many small iterations. This way, the entire process “from concept to cash” is ran through many different times, allowing new changes throughout every stage of a project.
What are common pitfalls in IT projects?
Even though you might follow a strong approach to manage your projects, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always a recipe for success. IT projects can still potentially fail. Let’s break down the reasons why projects still could go wrong, and how you should be handling them instead.
- Excessive sense-of-urgency
Don’t: Oftentimes, project deadlines are decided upon before the start of a project, and can’t be negotiated throughout the project. This results in a never-ending rush to complete a project. The assumption here is that the sooner you start, the sooner the project will be completed. But rushing things is rarely the right approach: it mostly jeopardises the quality of your project.
Do: First, think of strategy, think of the right approach, and communicate with your customer along the road. Failing to do just that will lead to continuous adjustments throughout, or worse, at the end of the development phase.
- Lack of budget
Don’t: In IT, many projects have an unrealistically low budget, which isn’t based on the actual requirements. If this is the case, you’re probably slowing everything down. Corners will be cut and quality will inevitably suffer.
Do: Instead, be realistic and transparent about the budget, and base it on the full requirements of your project. Don’t go overboard either, but do make sure you can live up to the expectations of your customer without having to completely revisit your price. A good way to do this is by using templates of similar projects you completed in the past. Use them to estimate how much time a task will take you and at what cost.
Tip: give your customer real-time access to your project and provide them with clear insight into its status to boost transparency, credibility, and customer satisfaction.
- Not reviewing progress
Don’t: As a projects progresses, requirements or expectations evolve. These changes inevitably have an impact on the end result. Not examining the progress will make it impossible to overcome challenges early on, or inform stakeholders of possible delays or changes to the end results.
Do: Set various milestones throughout the project which allows you to review progress with your team and adjust where necessary to stay on track. This way, you stay close to your team and your customer, and avoid delivering an end result that’s vastly different from the initial expectations of both parties.
These pitfalls are just the tip of the iceberg. To find out what else could be holding you back, download our free ebook: a complete guide to great project management.