Digital Transformation Through Agile Delivery
IT Agility AbilityTM
Digital Transformation Through Agile Delivery
IT Agility AbilityTM

Keeping IT Projects Under Control: People Success

By . December 20, 2018
Over the years I’ve supported various organisations (FTSE100’s & SME’s) to deliver Enterprise IT projects and have recently spoken to several project & programme managers I’ve worked with to find out their top suggestions in dealing with the challenges they’ve faced in keeping IT projects in check.

In this particular blog, I am going to focus on the ‘people’ aspect of IT Project Delivery as this was one of the key areas that the project managers I spoke with attributed to defining whether a project was going to succeed or fail, more so than the technical aspects of the project.

One of the project managers I spoke to explained how he had been leading an ERP project with multiple parties and how the project had hit some bumps along the way, some of which were your typical bottlenecks associated with an ERP of that scale, but some were abnormal. Despite this being a technical project he was adamant that 100% of the challenges he faced resulted from the people equation and cited miscommunication and a lack of communication abound.

In another company the Head of IT explained how a companywide IT development project had struggled to gain traction and was regularly in the “red” until a new project manager was hired to see the project through to a successful delivery. He went on to explain how the new project manager gained the respect of the developers by understanding what they were doing.

So when it comes to keeping your project in the “green” what are some of the strategies you can employ when it comes to people? Below is a list of ideas/strategies the group of PM’s came up with:

  • Don’t create a team: A true team will sink or swim together. Unless you can affect each individual’s salary, bonus and workload (which is an extreme request in 99.9% of projects as they are cross-functional in nature), don’t expect your group to work as a team with the expectation that everyone has the same goal from their day-to-day manager. Instead, find a way to use these diverse backgrounds to your advantage. Bring the group together on specific tasks, engage individuals in a way that works for their particular situation and day-to-day manager.
  • Communicate the why: No matter what else happens, the number one priority should be to communicate the why behind the project. One way to bring this group of individuals together for a common purpose is to make sure the purpose is crystal clear – and the why behind the project is understood and energising.
  • Follow up selectively: Since we know that cross-functional project teams run into many conflicting objectives and challenges, it is important not to waste precious energy on non-essential tasks. Focus selectively on what will move the project forward and ensure success – in essence, ignore everything but the critical path.
  • Celebrate successes: Don’t wait for the project to be completed successfully. Instead, look for wins along the way. If success or failure boils down to people, it is wise to think about what will keep people motivated. Ignoring them while they overcome daily obstacles might be commonplace but it won’t equate to success. Catch people doing right.
  • Get rid of poor performers: One of the most important things a leader can do is to address poor performers. It gives your top performers hope that you understand what’s required for success and that you appreciate top talent.

Since IT projects can drive substantial results, it is really worth figuring out how to stack the odds in your favour. From my discussions in relation to this blog, there is no deep, technical understanding required to lead a project effectively. Instead, it comes down to your ability to ask the right questions and lead people which will determine your success as a project leader. From my discussions, it has been made clear that a company’s project will have a far greater chance of success if given the best leaders with average technical skill sets instead of average leaders with the best technical skills.

- Tristan

For more information on the IT Project Delivery & Business Transformation Market please contact the author of this blog Tristan Thompson

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