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While all enterprises strive to “elevate to the next level,” when the scene shifts to project management in IT organizations, the discussion is more about how to avoid “descending to lower depths” – because the performance statistics for IT initiatives are anything but uplifting. For example:

IAG Consulting surveyed over 100 companies, and found that 68% of all projects failed.
The Standish Group analyzed 10 years’ worth of project performance data, and discovered that 42% failed outright, and 52% were “challenged” (i.e. over budget, late and/or marked by flawed implementation).
McKinsey & Company studied over 5000 projects and found that 56% delivered less value than expected, 45% exceeded budget, and 17% were so disastrous that they threatened the company’s very survival.
• A study published in Harvard Business Review looked at nearly 1500 projects, and found that the average overrun was 27% – with 1 in 6 projects having a cost overrun of 200%, and a schedule overrun of nearly 70%.

Behind the Grizzly Numbers

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11_10_10 AMAs with most statistical horror stories, there are a few reasons for these grizzly numbers – some of which are systemic (i.e. they can be mitigated but not eliminated), and one reason in particular that can and should be addressed ASAP.

On the systemic side – and as project managers know all too well – project management in IT organizations can be much more complex, challenging and risky than project management in other industries. For instance:
• There’s typically a fixed supply of resources, and yet a never-ending flow of demand.
• Projects are usually feature and function heavy.
• The environment is extremely process-oriented.
• There’s a mix of high-profile projects running currently with numerous smaller initiatives.
• There’s an endless stream of change requests.
• Everyone wants their project done RIGHT NOW!
However, while these factors combine to make project management in IT organizations demanding, they don’t explain away the terrible (and terrifying) project failure rates. And that brings us to the one reason behind this epidemic that isn’t systemic, and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to endure and wreak havoc: the wrong project management software.

That is, a surprising number of IT organizations are struggling with conventional project management software that is working against their teams rather than for them. And the easiest way to spot and avoid importing this fundamental flaw is by asking 5 visibility- related questions.

1. Does it deliver PORTFOLIO visibility? IT organizations must be able to look across the entire project portfolio and change request pipeline, and clearly see how resources are assigned, what implementations are pending, running, and wrapped-up. Without accurate and complete portfolio visibility, organizations cannot control budgets, schedule projects, or make strategic decisions about investments and prioritization.

2. Does it deliver PROCESS visibility? IT organizations are typically process-driven. As such, project management software must centralize all data, and deliver real-time visibility on all project aspects, including status, progress, issues, iterations, resource loads, deadlines, critical paths, and so on. At the same time, the software must customize and flex around the organization’s unique workflows — not the other way around.

3. Does it deliver RESOURCE visibility? Resource management in IT organizations cannot be reactive and remedial – it must be proactive and strategic. Otherwise, project managers spend an enormous about of time and effort “plugging capacity holes” vs. achieving deliverables and meeting milestones. As such, project management software must deliver real-time insight into available resources and current workloads. It must also proactively, automatically and instantly identify anticipated resource overload situations, run hypothetical scenarios to assess impact before changes are made, and provide team members with updates when their workload or schedule is updated.

4. Does it deliver STAKEHOLDER visibility? IT project managers and other team members must interact with a variety of internal and external stakeholders (e.g. vendors, suppliers, customers, etc.). To keep traffic jams from clogging the flow, project management software must fuse social communications with work execution, and provide context through rich discussion groups at every level. It must needs to offer private online discussion boards for organized collaboration, and offer tools like desktop widgets to keep stakeholders in the loop.

5. Does it deliver CHANGE REQUEST visibility? As noted above, IT organizations typically deal with a steady (read: relentless and daunting) stream of change requests. As such, project management software must automatically capture key change management request details and associated conversations/notes, and provide full visibility of each initiative as it is ushered forward through the PLC.

The Bottom Line

There’s really no such thing as an “easy project” in the IT world. Rather, there are just degrees of difficulty and risk. However, the fact that most projects are inherently challenging and complex doesn’t mean that project management wins should be the exception, rather than the norm. In fact, it can’t mean this if organizations want to succeed in the short-term, and survive in the long-term.

That’s why leading IT organizations around the world choose Clarizen. It delivers the five layers of visibility that project managers need – portfolio, processes, resources, stakeholders and change requests – to efficiently roll out new solutions, and keep everything prioritized, on track, and on budget. Learn more through a free 30-day test drive.

David Goulden
David Goulden, Product Director