Starting a New IT Project: What You Need to Know

By Tracy Dodson, Head of Projects and Delivery, ThingsAt

Project management is by far the most used ‘go to’ business process. No matter how big or small the company, project management is how things get done. So why then has project management got such a bad rap? Unfortunately, things often do go wrong. McKinsey research, conducted in collaboration with the University of Oxford, suggests that half of all large IT projects—defined as those with initial price tags exceeding $15 million—massively blow their budgets. On average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted.

I’m Tracy Dodson, Head of Projects and Delivery, ThingsAt, and I am motivated by numbers like that and ready to tackle them head on. I have been managing projects and programmes for over twenty years and am very used to delivering complex global programmes with diverse stakeholders, very tight time frames and limited budgets.

Project Methodology

I use a four-phase project methodology, and when starting a new project there is of course a heavy focus on the first two phases – feasibility and planning.

In the feasibility phase you must develop a solid business case.

Planning needs to include a number of different activities, all of which are critical to achieving a positive outcome for the project i.e. delivering on time, on scope and on budget.

  • Lock-in the scope.
  • Develop the work breakdown structure.
  • Develop work packages.
  • Develop the schedule.
  • Identify the team.
  • Develop the budget.
  • Identify the risks.
  • Develop the communication plan.
  • Develop the stakeholder management plan.
  • Identify the governance model.
  • Write the project plan.

Of course, everyone knows this – but how do you make sure the planning has been done properly? By using experienced project managers and identifying accountability up front. Over the last five years I have been completing my PhD in Project Management. My research interest is the role of the Project Manager and in particular their accountability to deliver.

Successful Project Management

My research tells me that effective and successful project management is based on three things. The first is a solid methodological delivery framework with the right tools and processes. The second is the unique skill set of the project manager – this includes having great communication skills, the ability to think critically, weigh up situations and make decisions, being a brilliant organiser and an inspirational leader and mentor. The third thing is about a project having a very robust governance model in place – and a clear agreement on the accountability, responsibility, and authority of the project manager.

My experience and my research tell me the main reasons IT projects don’t meet expectations are because companies don’t have the necessary talent, and because of poor communication, governance and accountability to ensure adherence to set budget and timelines.

I have a very clear and well-defined recipe for success:

  • Ensure you have a clear scope so that everyone understands what the end result will look like.
  • Use experienced project managers.
  • Create a realistic schedule ensuring all tasks can be completed.
  • Have a sensible budget to cover planning, contingency and risks.
  • Lock in an accountability framework and governance model.
  • Make sure the project has the right resources allocated and their time is committed.

These six aspects need to be in place before commencing any project, or the project will not deliver.

Why ThingsAt

At ThingsAt, our team of project managers are experienced and capable. Our methodology is watertight. Our value add is that behind all our project managers is the extra layer of governance that I provide – to ensure we deliver what we say we will. Our approach is based on our experience, our commitment to best practice and current research, and our solid governance frameworks.

Project management is the best way to ensure change is delivered quickly and cost effectively. Getting project management right is what we do.

To find out more read about our professional services or contact us.

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