Information Technology projects are notorious for going over time and over budget. According to the McKinsey group, "on average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted". No business can justify overspending, time wasting, and under delivering, and expect to remain viable. The best way to avoid this situation is to be armed with knowledge. Being aware of potential pitfalls will help businesses and project owners to avoid them. This article will look at three common pitfalls and how to mitigate against them.
Misunderstanding the Problem: The first step in solving any problem is to understand it. The business owners and stakeholders need to have a clear understanding of what they are trying to fix, improve, or eliminate. A store that is trying to reduce long lines at checkout, can't expect that a computerised point of sale system will eliminate the problem, when they have just one cashier. While that example may seem quite obvious, it highlights a problem that is rampant - businesses throw technology at problems expecting them to be magic bullets. Technology can do amazing things, but you have to know what you want to do first.
Losing Focus of the Business: Of course, it's not only the business owners that need to understand the problem. Technology professionals also need a clear understanding of what the business is trying to accomplish. Too often, these professionals do not understand the business - how it works, how it makes money and how customers interact with it. So presented with a problem, they think in terms of hardware and software, instead of looking at the complete picture. It is important to keep the business needs in focus, and if necessary remind the technologists of just how their pay gets to their bank account. Unless they work for the Central Bank, their computers and digital devices don't print their money.
Buying the Advertising: This third reason for technology failure isn't unique to the industry. Advertisers are paid to make a service appear appealing. Sales professionals will always promise that the product will meet your needs. It is all too easy for a company to buy the "leading solution", or the one that is used by "80% of companies in the sector". Instead of buying the spiel, business owners should create their own list of what is required for to meet their needs, and then evaluate the options against this list. Don't take promises and guarantees, ask for a demonstration. Nothing beats seeing a system in action, for only then will you truly know if if does what you expect, or even what is advertised.
One of the best ways to ensure the success of IT projects is to invest in your human resources. For large companies this means training IT resources, not just in technology related disciplines, but also in core business areas. If they have a basic understanding of how the business works, and what will contribute to its success, then they are more likely to understand how their technology can build the business.
For smaller companies that do not have dedicated IT resources, it is important to invest time to identify an individual or organisation that understands the importance of understanding your business. If they try to sell you a solution before taking time to understand your problem, then move on to the next provider.
There is no need for all business owners to be technology experts, no more than there is need for everyone who drives a car to be an engineer. Identify professionals who will invest time to understand your business, and your problem, and who will partner with you to find appropriate technology solutions.