There are a number of reasons why companies identify, plan and execute Information Technology projects including:
- The old system is broken and/or at the “end of life”;
- The new system will streamline business processes;
- A new system will improve customer experience and satisfaction;
- The company will save money with new capabilities.
The planned IT project need not be, and indeed should not be, a technological effort. In most instances, when the departure point for an information technology project is technological, it immediately alienates most of the business stakeholders who are not able to, and sometimes don’t want to, keep up with all the ‘techno speak’ and IT acronyms. The needs of the business should clearly lead the discussion and deal with:
- Business objectives
- Business processes
- Service provision
- Business culture
- Financial implications
There are many business objectives out there and it’s important for every project to have its own set of business benefits, but keep in mind, the steps involved in successful IT project implementation will generally be the same.
The 6 IT planning steps that will ensure success in this mindset are:
These 6 planning steps focus on critical IT project aspects and will provide management with key information with which to drive and steer the project to success.
Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.
Step 1 Concept:
When proposing that the business embark on this project, can we identify what is the scope? Can we define the objectives and the constraints that we will be dealing with? Can we measure costs, cost savings and the dreaded ROI details? What qualitative elements are we going to use to define and measure?
Step 2 Feasibility:
What are the chances of success and what factors influence this? Who are the stakeholders in this project and does it impact any other IT or business projects currently in planning or execution? Have we identified a set of project risks? What are the issues we expect to encounter during the project? Once this feasibility matrix is clearly understood we can move on.
Step 3 Project Initiation:
Identify and document the high level plan and work required in the project. Ensure a clear and concise communication plan is created for the entire project. Identify the project organization structure and the required roles and responsibilities. Define any and all resources needed for the duration of the project. Identify any contingencies needed.
Step 4 Project Planning:
Based on steps 1 through 3 update any risks, issues and costs impacted by the work done. Draft the base finance sheet for the project with all known financial values, both internal and external. Draft the project base-line plan. Created the project Gantt chart with the work break down structured required. Agree to the working practices, techniques and controls for the project team.
Step 5 Project Execution:
As hinted by the title, this step refers to the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the project. By now, everyone knows what they are doing and management can focus on the updates, progress and outcomes of the project. Make sure the project status is measured, regulated and reported. See to it that the project change control protocol is being followed and that all changes are managed accordingly with the project team at all levels empowered to make the required decisions. At this step it is also important that all the project milestones are signed off on ‘acceptance certificates’ as and when delivered.
Step 6 Closedown:
The work is done but now comes the ‘proof in the pudding.’ Ensure the completed project is accepted and handed over to operations effectively. Execute 3 PIR’s (Post Implementation Reviews) i) immediate ii) 45 days and iii) 6 months at the very latest. Celebrate and recognize – the team will feel ready for the next project based on the celebrated successes of the project and recognized individuals. Ensure all resources are properly reassigned if required. Afterwards, a fully documented project file is archived for future reference.
I have created an 8-page guide that describes each of these steps in more detail. You can receive a free download of this guide by clicking here.
Project execution teams will become reliant of this formula for future successes, especially when it is consistently applied and improved. Re-executing this formula will allow for those involved to become increasingly competent in its execution. Business lessons are learned and the overall benefits are multiplied and felt across the business ecosystem.
As they say, success breeds success.