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3 Reasons Why Your Company Needs A Part-Time CIO

A part-time CIO for SMBs offers many advantagesBy Rocky Vienna
Principal

A witch’s brew of globalization, disruptive technology, and regulatory compliance has created a new set of challenges for business executives. Never before has Information Technology – and the knowledge and experience of a seasoned CIO – been so integral to a company’s success and outright survival.

Whether yours is an emerging company, a small company or a mid-size company, having a part-time or fractional CIO serve on your Executive Management Team is the most effective way to get the benefits of having an experienced CIO without taking on the expense of having a CIO on staff full time.

Why a part-time CIO will complete your team

It’s common for small and mid-size businesses to have an infrastructure-centric IT manager who doesn’t yet have the business acumen of a seasoned CIO. This IT manager is vital for day-to-day IT management, but just isn’t capable of guiding the executive management team through strategic IT-related issues and opportunities. In addition, this junior team member does not have the experience to ensure that you have the proper business processes and related business systems in place to support growth.

Do the Hardest Parts of Your IT Project First

An important part of the project risk management puzzleBy Ken Norland
Associate

Many project managers have a tendency to do the easy pieces first and save the hardest parts for the end. This is just basic human nature. However, project risk management for increasing the chances of IT project success means planning for the earliest possible problem detection. If your project has complexities (i.e. “hard parts”) that you can identify early, attacking them first will improve predictability and give you time to recover when the inevitable problems occur.

Turn “3 Miracle” Projects into “Doable” Projects

Years ago I worked at an organization where we would look at a project and say “it will take X number of miracles for us to pull this off in the time allotted.” Those “miracles” referred to the events where we got to a point and said “a miracle is needed here.” And I learned that tackling those gaps in understanding can eliminate most of the need for miracles. Which, of course, makes for good project management.

Include Time in Your IT Project Plan for Changes

Include time in your IT project plan for changesBy Ken Norland
Associate

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

Don’t Wait to Get Your IT Project Into End Users’ Hands

An important way to help your IT project succeedBy Ken Norland
Associate

I’ve been writing about some ways that you can help your IT project succeed. In my last two articles I discussed picking the right project manager and then helping your project manager succeed by ensuring that she is actually allowed to manage. Today I’d like to talk about why you shouldn’t wait until the project is “done” before you get it into the end users’ hands.

IT Project Success Depends upon Meeting End Users’ Needs

If your project is aimed at producing something for end users to use, then ensuring that what you produce is what these people actually need and want is vital to the project’s success. We’ve all seen situations, though, where the delivered project perfectly matches the agreed-upon specs but is not accepted by the end users. There are a few common reasons why this happens:

  • End users’ needs evolve over time – If the specs were written six months ago, they probably do not fit the end users’ current understanding of what they need the project to do.
  • End users’ understanding changes as the project materializes – There’s a big difference between reviewing static specs or screen mock-ups and interacting with something live. Even if their needs have not changed at all, it’s common for end users to see what the project team has produced and say “Gee, that’s not what I meant.”
  • End users change – Sometimes by the time a project is delivered, the people who need it have changed. The new people may want it to work a little differently than what the previous people had envisioned.

How to Help Your Project Manager Succeed

How to Help Your Project Manager SucceedBy Ken Norland
Associate

In my last article I gave some in-depth advice regarding “Picking the Right Project Manager for Your IT Project.” Once you have selected this person, it is your job as CIO to help your project manager succeed. The best way to do that is to ensure that your project manager is allowed to manage.

What prevents project managers from managing?

In my experience, the two most common problems that prevent project managers from actually managing are:

1. Micromanagement from above – The people who oversee the project but are not in the project, start micromanaging the process.

2. Misunderstanding of the project management role – The road to IT project failure is often paved by project managers who only take the “project reporter” role and not the “manager” role. These people attend or lead meetings, take notes, list issues and report on them to management. But they don’t drive these issues and problems to solutions and project progress – they wait for someone else to do that. This approach is guaranteed to fail in tough projects.

Picking the Right Project Manager for Your IT Project

How to pick the right project manager for your IT projectBy Ken Norland
Associate

In my previous article about “5 Ways to Improve the Chances of IT Project Success,” I stated that the first thing you need to do is to pick the right project manager for the job. While this is really not a big deal for small projects, for large projects that involve lots of people, picking the right project manager can mean the difference between success and failure.

6 Things to Look for When Hiring a Project Manager

5 Ways to Improve the Chances of IT Project Success

Improving the chances of IT project successBy Ken Norland
Associate

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 I Never Look at the Value Case or ROI

Evaluating IT initiatives without looking at the value case or ROIBy Mark Tonnesen
Principal

When evaluating potential IT initiatives, the most common approach is to focus on the numbers and look at the return on investment (ROI) or value case. For example, say your company is considering implementing a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Chances are the CEO and CFO will ask, "What's the value?" Or, "If the new system will cost $10 million, can you show me how it will produce a $10 million ROI?"

As far as I'm concerned, though, if you're asking about the value case or ROI when evaluating IT initiatives, you're asking the wrong question and looking at the wrong things.

The Easy First Step Towards Increasing Diversity in Technology Companies

An Easy 1st Step Towards Increasing Diversity in Tech CompaniesBy Steven McIntosh
Associate

It's no secret that the vast majority of people who work at technology companies are men. Unfortunately, this is a serious problem that impacts these technology company's ability to succeed in an increasingly diverse economic world.

Why Technology Companies Need a Diverse Workforce

Today most technology companies are only getting the benefit of a single point of view. This not only breeds a lot of "group think," it can also make it hard for the team as a whole to truly understand many of the members of the companies' target audiences.

Increasing Business / IT Alignment When Getting from “Need” to “Solution”

Increasing Business / IT Alignment When Getting from Need to SolutionBy Paul Hoekstra
Associate

It has been estimated that over 70% of all system outages are a direct result of changes that have been made to the operational environment. It's no coincidence that at many organizations, IT has in effect lost control of the production environment and is in constant firefighting mode. The regular unpredicted downtimes, missed deadlines and cost overruns deteriorates the value of the IT organization as a whole and the trust in the CIO in particular.

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