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IT Project Management Success Depends on Senior Management

IT Project Management Success Depends on Senior Management

For IT Project success, senior management support should be on every project manager’s list of critical factors. In my experience, when we failed to get sufficient senior management support for our IT projects, the projects had little chance of succeeding. In fact, they failed.

As I indicated in my previous blog, the role of senior management as it relates to corporate culture is paramount for IT project success or failure. In this blog, I am going to touch on the senior management’s direct support as it relates to IT project success.

What does ‘Senior Management Support’ Mean?

While we can all agree that top-management support is essential, it’s not always really clear what is meant by “top-management support.”  In simple terms, senior management support means being committed both financially and politically. These are key to IT project success. I am a firm believer that if you have C-level (“chief” or highest-level executive) support for a project, you are at least half way home.

The lack of senior management commitment poses a significant risk factor for IT project success. How do you determine if senior management is sufficiently commitment to provide the level of support needed for IT project success?

Common questions that have helped me in the past to gauge senior management support:

  • Does senior management understand their role in driving the IT project success?
    Senior managers are generally key stakeholders in any medium or large IT projects. As the key stakeholders they must be willing to take appropriate actions to address issues raised by the project team.
  • Did senior management initiate the project based on business needs/goals?
    In my experience, IT projects initiated by senior management have a higher chance of success. It is an advantages to have ‘top-down force’ rather than a ‘bottom-up pull’.
  • Is senior management the owner of the project charter?
    Usually project charters are the responsibility of the project manager. However, when the project charter is issued by top management it indicates organization wide commitment for the project and the availability of resources.
  • How much time was devoted to the approval process?
    The approval process should not be taken lightly.
  • Are they willing to remain involved with the project and attend executive update sessions?
    It is important to ensure that senior management remains fully engaged throughout the project life cycle.
  • Do they understand the risks and are willing to see the project through its rough times?
    All projects have known and unknown risks. Senior management play a large role in mitigating the risks and contributing to the project success.
  • How much support does top management have among its peers?
    I had significantly more success delivering IT projects when the senior management support was organization wide.

While these questions have helped me in the past, they are not an exhaustive list. They are simply suggestions to kick-start the process. Asking the right questions at the start will help you to plan and execute your project better.

No, it’s not enough just to say “the project has the support of top-management”.Senior Management Support

When top level support is strong, everyone knows it. But they also know it when top level support is weak. Project managers know it. Team members know it.  Those in other functional areas know it.  Even end-users or customers know it!

 Without top level support the project may never be approved, or if it is approved at all it may take forever for it to get through the process.  Without senior management support, cooperation from other departments may be impossible to obtain, and the commitment from team members will lack enthusiasm. In other words, there will be a lack of commitment by the organization at large.

Before you start your next IT project

So, before you start your next IT project, explore senior management support carefully. If there is weak support from senior management there will be little hope of success and hearing any praise. In fact, if there is little support then you may fall victim to the common expression, “no good deed goes unpunished.” In terms of IT project management this means that you do or try to do all the right things, employ good project management concepts and processes and still end up in a lot of trouble because your project will likely fail.

IT Project Management Book Guide