- Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 08:00
By Ken Norland
If you’ve been in the IT world for any length of time, you know that large IT projects often go awry. Luckily, there are many ways to improve the chances that your IT project will succeed. In my last article I discussed the importance of getting an iteration of your project into end users’ hands as early in the process as possible. This gives you time to adjust mid-stream if necessary (and it usually is). Today I’d like to discuss a closely related topic: Allowing time in your IT project plans to actually make these adjustments.
Most Projects Need Multiple Iterations
Especially when creating IT project plans for large development projects, you need to assume that the project will require multiple iterations. Why? Because:
- End users need to see early iterations, so they can provide much-needed feedback (as discussed in my last article)
- Testers need to see early iterations, so they can de-bug their tests while the project is being developed
- The project team might run into unforeseen technical difficulties, which can require additional iterations to resolve
However, providing for iterations requires better planning than what many people do. Iterations must be meaningful for someone to look at. You can’t just say, “Well, we’ve been working on this for three months. Let’s call it an iteration!” (This attitude is one of the reasons for the failure rate of Agile Projects.)
Deployment projects require multiple iterations, too, and these iterations come into play during the roll-out phase. The way you do iterations for deployment projects is to start by rolling out your tested project to some of your early adopters. Identify any problems, make adjustments as necessary, and then roll out the next iteration to a larger pool of people. Lather, rinse, repeat, growing the numbers of end users with each iteration released.
Most Projects Require Changes
Things almost always come up. From the “changes” standpoint, the requirements of most projects get updated during execution. Although quite often these updates are refinements and not complete changes in direction, addressing them still takes time.
Including time in your IT project plans for iterations and changes is simply an admission of reality. But when a project manager goes overboard and schedules things right down to the last micro-second of what’s available (a surprisingly common occurrence), every little change quickly becomes a major scheduling problem.
Realize That You Probably Won’t Know Everything Up Front
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for slippages and misfits of the project delivered is that people assume everything is known before the project begins. In my experience, 90% of what you think you know up front is usually correct. It’s the other 10% that causes all the problems. In fact, I’d say that the larger the project, the bigger the chances that you don’t know everything up front. Your IT project planning should allow for this.
It is my experience that allowing time in your IT project plans for changes and iterations improves the quality of your final results, and often reduces the time it takes to get to a successful implementation and acceptance.
Why? Because if you build in the traditional way, end users don’t get involved until the project is almost done – at which point they drag out the acceptance tests. Instead of taking two weeks as scheduled, they’ll take months, because they haven’t been engaged enough in the process to understand what they’re looking at. And once those months of testing are over, there’s a good chance the end users will announce that the project does not meet their needs. Planning for iterations and changes can eliminate this problem.
In my next article – the final installment in this series – I’ll be talking about why and how you should plan for the earliest possible problem detection. Stay tuned!
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.