Prudent plans

The handling of IT projects is of paramount importance to the IT department and the business as a whole. How should CIOs engage other stakeholders and what KPIs need to be monitored to ensure a project reaches its full potential?Prudent

It requires a certain type of personality to be an effective project manager. Organised, attentive and capable of engaging all relevant stakeholders, an IT PM must put these traits into practice and overcome a series of inevitable obstacles that can always throw things off course. So what is the recipe for success in project management? What processes and strategies are needed to get the best out of the investment for IT and the business? Kumar Prasoon, Chief Information Officer, Al Safeer Group, believes that process precision is key. “Given the progress that the region is currently making, Gulf businesses are extremely dynamic,” Prasoon says. “As such, processes need to be customised depending on the industry. Inter-process dependencies mean processes shouldn’t be mixed and matched.”

According to Jai Mulani, CEO, Intelligent Business Technologies, setting out clearly defined parameters for success – and ensuring they are seen through – is key. “From the CIO’s perspective, in order to execute a successful project, the most important element to be taken care of is the expectations and deliverables,” he says. “Selecting the right partner to implement the project is a big challenge. CIO’s have to ensure they are dealing with right company with the capabilities to deliver the project and have enough experience in similar or larger project executions.”

Ashish Dass, President, EMEA, 3i Infotech, believes in organisation and precision. “For the successful execution of an effective IT project some of the basic ground rules that need to be followed are adherence of the timeline, within the specified budget and the overall quality of the project,” he says. “These basic rules, which can be benchmarked with the guidelines issued by ‘The Project Management Institute’ can help mitigate the risk and ensure effectiveness of the project.”

In order to achieve success within an IT project, CIO’s cannot operate alone. With IT’s evolving status as the undercurrent of business performance, forming strong relationships with the right stakeholders is now more important than ever. Prasoon has a unique take on who holds project influence. “The main stakeholder of any project is the customer,” he says. “Customer segmentation is essential for any success, along with the participation of a range of other senior figures.”

Dass places importance on a trident of stakeholders. “Primarily there are two or in some cases three key parties involved – the vendor, the client and the integrator,” he says. “Within these exist other layers of stakeholders from project managers to IT Managers to heads of department. I considering the client, vendor and the project managers allocated by both as the four key stakeholders, the people who benefit most from the implementation of the solution.”

Hugh Haskell-Thomas, Owner, Azimuth WLL, believes that the interaction from the integrator to end user is what makes the difference in hitting targets, and ensuring that IT translates to business value. “We have found in almost all of our projects that early and continuous engagement of business users is a critical success factor in the successful completion of the project and its long term benefit to the organisation,” he says. “It is their input and satisfaction that ties the solution deeply into the processes of day-to-day business operations, as well as the necessary parallel work to alter related policies and procedures.”

In an ideal world, projects run to timelines, within budget and expectations are met. However that is far from the reality of any project, let alone one with the technical complexities and business dependencies of IT. Haskell-Thomas believes a lack of practical understanding is greatest banana skin in delivering successful projects. “The most common factors affecting the success or failure of projects are, most generally, a complete misunderstanding of the functional requirements of the project and the amount of time needed from the users,” he says. He also sees the value of having specialised staff who have experience within a particular vertical. “What we have found most beneficial in recent years is to have an internal team of SME’s that have come from the business vertical in which we are implementing a solution. Their ability to transform user conjecture into technical functional requirements has been critical to the successful implementation as well as the user acceptance and adoption of the final solution.”
Mulani feels that poor planning and strategy have the potential to create problems at various stages of a project. “The most common stumbling blocks in IT projects are expectations, deliverables and mis-commitment or over-commitment,” he says. “Quite often, projects are awarded to an IT partner, and in the middle of the project or near its end, it fails because of self-explanatory stumbling blocks.”

An overarching concern of any IT project is the longevity of the resulting solution or outcome. Vast ‘progress’ can all be in vain if technology is outdated by the time it has been fully integrated. As such, IT leaders are compelled to ensure their investment is well considered and will stand the test of time. “It’s ultimately something of a catch 22 for CIOs and the business,” Prasoon says. “More often than not, by the time one solution has matured, another set of products has arrived that render it obsolete. Major IT investments need to be driven by use cases that meet individual business requirements. It’s also crucial to map customer requirements.”

Dass sees the pitfalls of delving into very complex detail. “The constantly changing and ever-evolving dynamics of technology have always been a major concern,” he says. “If applications are customised from scratch, long development cycles render some of the features obsolete by the time application development is complete.”
Mulani thinks this can be avoided through clear communication to ensure that solutions can stand the test of time. “This is where a good partner comes into play,” he says. “When expectations and deliverables are explained by a customer to a partner, it becomes the partner’s responsibility to design a solution which is most suitable for the client in terms of budget, lifecycle, and future growth.”

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