Failure Is Not an Option

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IT executives have been told to accept project failures as a reality of their portfolio—some reports even estimate failure rates for IT projects at 68%—but in today’s fast-paced world, the stakes for projects are higher than ever. The operative word in IT security, for example, is “breach”; that is, the weakest link can break the chain, so a single failure is enough to undo all other efforts. In this environment, “good enough” doesn’t get it done.

And while the margin of error is razor thin, the consequences for failing to keep data secure are utter disaster. The mere thought of something like what Equifax is experiencing happening in anyone’s own organization is enough to keep IT leaders up at night.

These stakes exist in increasingly complicated and ever-transforming environments. Getting everything right down to the finest detail becomes a top concern when trying to pull off things like cloud migrations.

It’s an exciting time for CIOs and IT Directors to have a great impact on their organization, but that requires a big portfolio and perfect execution to get it done. In an age where CEOs are investing more in technology than CIOs, many organizations have to wonder who is owning technology decisions in the first place. And with the movement to bigger and better technologies with less luxurious budgets than bygone days, there is immense pressure to do more with less.

While all these fears are new, the underlying problems are just the same, dating back to Y2K or even all the way back to the Challenger disaster. When things go wrong, it’s not due to a lack of technical skills to (for example) put security in place. It’s the organization and planning to get the administrivia down to the minutia right.

Doing Projects Right Every Time

Projects require perfect plans and flawless execution. The preponderance of project management goes toward planning, leaving a lack of emphasis on the latter. IT leaders will say that they’re investing in execution, but the investments goes toward the technical elements. Execution suffers from a lack of project management bandwidth when project managers are running too many projects to conduct flawless execution. In order to get every last detail right, leaving no breaches and no margin of error, the leadership can’t slack after creating the baselines. There needs to be enough strong leadership in place to ensure the technical resources are getting their homework done to the exact schedule, budget, and spec or there will be variances. When those variances go unnoticed, the scope creeps, and when there isn’t enough strong leadership to establish project control, the necessary adjustments aren’t made to save the project, and it goes off the rails.

In the case of Equifax, it all resulted from one software engineer missing one patch on one piece of software. Investing more in technical talent to execute IT security is not the solution, then, since any software engineer can update software. Investing more in planning is likely not the solution either, since software patches were likely already in the plan. It’s the accountability and oversight that ensures the discipline of the plan is instilled throughout the lifecycle that ensures success. In order to get everything right, every time, on-time it comes down to project leadership.

Our white paper Seven Habits of Successful Project Leaders  illustrates who can provide this necessary layer of accountability and oversight to ensure your organization averts failure.

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