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Episode 262: How to Avoid Failure on IT Projects (Premium)

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Episode 262: How to Avoid Failure on IT Projects (Premium)A couple of episodes ago we welcomed Todd C Williams and talked about rescuing the problem project. We continue this discussion today with Dr. Emad Rahim, DM, PMP (http://www.linkedin.com/in/erahim, @DrEmadRahim) by looking at how to avoid failure and achieve project success on information technology (IT) projects.

In particular, we discuss the findings on this topic that he and his co-author describe in a white paper, which begins as follows:

Communication and information technology has developed rapidly within the last decade.As a result, project managers must be prepared to manage the current and future challenges within the project management field, as well as within the IT industry. Rapid globalization of business means organizations must significantly increase its capacity to accurately manage information and data. In response to this growing capacity demand, more discussion is needed to develop effective IT project management processes and approaches

Listen to the interview to learn how it's done!

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. 

 

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode # 262. This is the Project Management Podcast at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner.

You are listening to one of our premium episodes. These are recorded for and made available to only our premium subscribers. That’s you! So thank you very much for your support.

A couple of episodes ago, we welcomed Todd Williams and talked about rescuing the problem project. We continue this discussion today with Dr. Emad Rahim, DM, PMP by looking at how to avoid failure and achieve project success on information technology projects.

In particular, we discuss the findings on this topic that he and his co-author describe in a white paper, which begins as follows:

“Communication and information technology has developed rapidly within the last decade. As a result, project managers must be prepared to manage the current and future challenges within the project management field, as well as within the IT industry.

Rapid globalization of business means organizations must significantly increase their capacity to accurately manage information and data. In response to this growing capacity demand, more discussion is needed to develop effective IT project management processes and approaches.”

Well then, let’s see how that is done. Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Dr. Emad Rahim, appointed Endowed Entrepreneur-in-residence for Oklahoma State University and Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Emad and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™!

Dr. Emad Rahim: Well, thank you for having me again!

Cornelius Fichtner: Right now, we want to talk about why IT projects fail. But before we get to that, let's set the stage for everybody here. How do you see the role of information technology in our global environment today?

Dr. Emad Rahim: When talking about the global environment, I want to point out exactly what that is and what that looks like. We're talking about the global economy here. We're talking about an economy that is tied in different countries and different type of commerce and it's connected whether we want to believe it or not, it's connected.

The world is a lot flatter because of technology and it's because of IT technology and IT projects that have made the world flatter and projects in regards to vendors working with each other from different parts of the country, companies and customers communicating over Skype, over Google Hangout, whatever, they are all interacting on virtual projects, of virtual communication and that's why information technology is such an important topic as it relates to the global economy.

Cornelius Fichtner: Information management is also often referred to as knowledge management. What do you mean by that?

Dr. Emad Rahim: Because it's information, right? It's information that is being shared by the web. It's updated by people. It's utilized as a reference source. It's a resource so it is a form of knowledge management that we use it to build our expertise on a subject matter and it's being stored by information system.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! So much for the environment that we're in. Now, let's take a look at why IT projects actually fail. But first, what makes IT projects different than other projects?

Dr. Emad Rahim: Well, that's a great question. I have been asked that question many times in regards to why did I choose IT projects? I mean, shouldn’t this tie into all projects? What makes IT projects unique, it's not necessarily the IT itself. It's the people.

When we talk about IT projects and the companies that IT firms, often the project manager was promoted to that position because of their participation and contribution on another project. They often don’t have project management experience. They didn’t go to school for project management.

Often, these were programmers. These were technologists. These were engineers that did very well on a project but they don’t have the soft skills. They don’t have that experience in leading people and supervising people and promoting vision and dealing with conflicts. All those things that often project managers deal with out of the technical requirements, out of the hard skills that engineers and programmers come in. So that's what makes it unique. It's not necessarily the IT project itself. It's the environment. It's the project managers and the team members and the coach of that organization that makes them very different.

Cornelius Fichtner: You wrote a white paper together with Maurice Dawson about the topic why IT projects fail and in that white paper, you talk about 6 or 7 areas where IT projects may fail and we want to take a look at that, at these right now. The first one that you have is simply poor planning.

Dr. Emad Rahim: That's exactly, that's the number 1 reason. I think this ties to most, if not all of our projects. IT managers often lack the time that is appropriately planned because of the pressure from senior managers. While I think many of us deal with that, I think all of us can say if whether it's construction, whether it's development, whether it is government-related type of projects, we're all going to have some type of pressure.

But remember that technology changes so rapidly right? We're pressured to make sure our product goes in the market first. So I think that's what makes it different. The pressure is definitely greater because of that, that we have to get this product on the shelves before our competition and because technology is changing, something that we are utilizing today could be obsolete in the next 3 to 4 months. So the pressure I think is definitely different. It's a lot quicker. The environment is changing and that also causes us to plan poorly.

And then also because the plan is not as flexible as it should be and I think IT projects needs to be a lot more flexible than other projects because technology is changing because software do change and the clients' demand may change because the technology that we are creating may become obsolete. We have to create some flexibility and prepare for change in that. So definitely, poor planning makes the list of the number one.

Cornelius Fichtner: You also say that IT projects fail because of unclear goals and unclear objectives.

Dr. Emad Rahim: Yes and this goes back to the poor planning piece that sometimes the client is really unsure what they are creating here! Because it's technology. Unless it's something that we're just doing an addition to a software or to some type of device, some mobile device that we created and addition is different than creating something from scratch.

Imagine the programmers and engineers that was sitting in that room listening to Steve Jobs explain his vision on the iPhone. Imagine the touch screen, the usability, the apps, all these things in addition to the look and feel of it. They probably thought this guy was crazy. They probably thought it was very unrealistic and unclear.

So in regards to that, you have to make sure we go back to communication. It's going back our previous interview that we talked about the stakeholder. This is where it's important to really clearly get an understanding of what is being required. What are the objectives of this project? What does it look like? What does it feel? What color is it? What is the functionality? We want to make sure it's realistic. So setting clear goals and objective is very important. But many projects fail because it's unrealistic. It was not clear to begin with.

Cornelius Fichtner: Number 3 reason why IT projects fail according to you and your co-author, misalignment. How do you mean?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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