5 Ways to Improve the Chances of IT Project Success

Improving the chances of IT project successBy Ken Norland

The statistics are disheartening. A 2013 McKinsey survey confirmed what’s been an “open secret” for years: 71% of large IT projects have cost overruns, and on average these projects deliver 56% less value than predicted.

Why? What causes these problems, and what can you do to improve the chances of IT project success?

Why Large IT Projects Often Go Awry

There are many things that can cause cost overruns and projects that turn out to be less valuable than originally predicted. Based on my decades in the field, I believe the most common reasons are:

  • Estimation optimism – Usually caused by a lack of previous experience with similar projects.
  • Sub-optimal management – Including having insufficient capable resources available to execute the project.
  • Scope creep – This is a classic.

How to Increase the Chances of IT Project Success

Luckily, there are things that you can do to at the outset to improve the chances that your IT project will be successful. Here’s an overview of what I recommend; I’ll be diving into each of these topics in more depth in future articles:

  • Pick the right project manager – You need to hire a project manager who has the right experience for the project. If this is not possible, then you need to also engage the services of an outside resource who can coach and mentor your project manager.
  • Ensure the project manager is allowed to manage – The road to IT project failure is often paved by project managers who are only given the “project reporter” role and not the “manager” role.
  • Get the results of the project into the end users’ hands as quickly as possible – A common problem with IT projects is that by the time the project is delivered, the project requirements and/or the people who need it have changed.
  • Include time in the project plan for iterations and changes – I’ve seen a lot of project managers schedule things right down to the last micro-second of what’s available. Then when the inevitable issues arise, time and cost overruns occur.
  • Plan for the earliest possible problem detection – Do the hardest things – or a proof of concept for these things – first. This gives you more time to recover if the hard parts turn out to be harder and more time-consuming than anticipated.


The success of your IT projects often rests on successful IT project management. While not all overruns are avoidable, taking the steps above should provide earlier discovery of project “problems,” and let the organization react appropriately.

Watch this space for the next article in this series, where I’ll be delving deeper into how to go about picking the right project manager for the job.


About Ken Norland

As a strategic leader in IT with many years of experience, Ken has led significant teams in professional services, product development and large program/project management. His ability to see and act on both the big picture and on tactical needs is rare and valued.

Ken has participated in several mergers and acquisitions; managed large, multinational development teams; led Enterprise Architecture efforts; and provided strategy for multiple companies and technologies.

About CIO Professional Services

CIO Professional Services LLC is a top-rated IT (Information Technology) consulting firm, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, specializing in strategic IT consulting and business / IT alignment. Companies come to us seeking assistance with their information technology strategy as well as to source interim CIO / CTO employees or fractional CIO / CTOs.

Contact CIO Professional Services

Blog Tags


(650) 575-9255


Contact Us Any Time

555 Bryant Street, Suite 339, Palo Alto, CA 94301

Got An Idea? Lets Make It
Happen Today

Just Wanna Chat ? Just let Us Know When