How do you get an IT project that’s failing back on track?

3160 pts.
Tags:
Career Development
Project management
There's an interesting thread going on right now about why IT projects fail. http://whatis.techtarget.com/ITKnowledgeExchange/questionArchiveView/0,294934,sid9_gci1132486,00.html What I'd like to know is...how do you get a project that's floundering back on track?

Answer Wiki

Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.

Difficult question to answer since it depends on so many things, and possible problem areas.

Probably the key element is that management
(as high as possible) must understand that it’s in trouble, and be willing to fix it, even at the potential cost of losing face.

Within that framework, what’s needed is a really good project or program manager. This is a difficult thing for many people to understand, since the project manager’s job is not primarily technical, it’s keeping track of all of the various project details, especially as they relate to one another. Some of the more successful rescues I’ve seen or heard about (my wife is a program manager) comprise a team of a schedule-type manager with a technical manager so that each of them can keep the other on-track with respect to each other’s specialties.

Hope that helps,

Bob

Discuss This Question: 7  Replies

 
There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when members answer or reply to this question.

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
  • DrillO
    Yeah, what Bob said..... Ego is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome. Losing face is huge for the management types. They will nearly always fall back on the funding problems or personnel problems. This is why a project really has to be managed properly right from the start. In the beginning (planning) stages as well as later when the project starts to fail, it is important to try to manage things so that the "owner" of the project doesn't look bad. A project can be saved but only if those above aren't afraid. One of the toughest things is for a Senior Management type to admit they are wrong or that they made a mistake. I have learned a long time ago not worry about getting credit if the thing works. The imortant part for peo-le like us is that the thing works. Project management is a huge part of all this and again to echo Bob, it is important to have both technical and non technical resources in the PM cycle. That's why I always make sure I surround myself with smart people....keeps me out of the fire and helps me make my CEO look good too.... I have also found that sometimes you have to be prepared to kick some butts if you have someone who is sure this thing isn't going to work or is a bad idea. A project can be destroyed by the people working it if they are not buying into the project. There are many ways to get buy-in and I will try every reasonable one first then go to the butt-kicking if necessary. I have also been know to tell upper management in plain terms that something is wrong and needs to be fixed......Kind of "back off and let me rescue this for you. they need at times to be educated to what is wrong in order for us to be able to fix it. It is all about communcation. Best, Paul
    15 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Paul144hart
    A similar question would be "how do I get the horses back into the barn when I left the door open?". If its failing and behind schedule, and its looking like a train wreck is about to happen, there are only two paths: 1- "It has to work as stated"; You will be late, so the plan should be reviewed / revised to make less painful, and understand the issue and know the revised plan will be successful. Give everyone notice so they can reduce the impact as much as possible. 2- "It has to be on time"; Re-plan the project, knowing you will need to either beg for more resources to get back on track or drop some part of the project.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • VenPhil
    I've had to do this twice. What is needed is someone new to the project who can ask the right questions of everybody. He or she must report to the person who controls the purse strings of the project, and have access to EVERYONE on the team. In addition, this person must have the ability to guide the project, even though this may be through the current management structure. I should say here that both projects where I was the "rescuer" were in fact fairly well thought out. The problem in both cases was overwork and lack of communication. The best systems designer I ever hired was a journalist (writing variety) by training. He just kept asking questions, organizing the responses, and kept going back to make sure the people he interviewed agreed with his take on what they said. He didn't know the subject matter before he began a project, but learned as he went. When the implementation phase began, people on the projects recognized him as the expert. I'm saying this, because several friends in management and I often debated the fact that a REALLY GOOD MANAGER doesn't have to know the technical area he or she is managing. But they DO have to know what questions to ask, trust the people they are working with (and this takes a few weeks of poking around), listen carefully to the responses, formulate plans, check them out with those who do know the project, and then implement them. When I was managing projects, every time something went awry, a 20-minute meeting with those involved usually identified the roadblock and resulted in a new "pathway." Of course I had hired my team, and they were not only technically competent but smart about "life" as well. (Aside--If you are in a position to hire people, always choose people who are smarter than you are, or at least as smart. It pays off in the end.) I have read all the resonses to this thread as well as the other one about why projects fail, and agree with all of the viewpoints is some way or other. But I think it is important to realize that project failure and recovery is caused by people, not technical difficulties or miracles. And there are usually enought smart people around an organization to make things work. The thing that is usually overlooked is that people have to agree on what to do, and the order in which it is done. It is when people don't agree (almost always because they haven't sat down to talk about it) that things begin to go wrong. Cheers everyone, Phil
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Pelaez
    Try this approach, complementary to previous messages: Project management should assume the project is failing, and try to prioritize these factors: - Schedule - Quality - Cost They should not try to achieve the most for each of them, most of the times it is a zero-sum effort. Is schedule crucial? There might be necesary to reduce functionality (quality) and/or increase cost. Is quality imperative? There may be delays and extra cost to be assumed. Best example: Apollo XI landing on the moon. The mission was delayed, huge deviation from budget but... it was successful.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Paul144hart
    On the three things: - Schedule - Quality - Cost Its my assumption that cost will always be violated since to finish a failing project with more efficiency than its had previously seems highly unlikely. Of course, you can loose all three, case in point is the "Big Dig".
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • HappyGene
    I would say that you should immediately dissect the failures and/or bottlenecks and see if they lend themselves to a temp brute force fix while other parts of the project go on. Real examples: File translation fails - put a squad of key punches on it to yield valid data so other parts of the system remain developable/testable; Operators can't adequately use system - run new cables and switches to each floor from the routers until the backbone can be deepened; Silk screen ink isn't drying in time to pack filters - buy 100 space heaters and put them on the line until different ink can be found or a different jet stream system can be installed; Production lags even after exhaustive on-floor testing of new equipment (unionized work force) - get a timeline from a consort lawyer and the union rep about punitive actions and rewards; Stonewalling - arrange an "innocent" progress meeting (armed with metrics and reputation of the defendant) and force them to broach the subject. They will get up and walk out, break down and cry or hang themselves with their inaccuracies. This is a last resort after more discrete dialogue. Estimate the above costs and take them to your purse holder, let them decide which course would be less "expensive" from a bird's eye view. If you snookered, well, you did. Admit it and modify the plan, possibly including restitutive consolations to the clients, even in-house clients. No admirable and competent officer will butcher you and the project to the detriment of the company. If you show that you learned and were loyal to the company, your career should be ok. Your call about the character of the officer, though......... :) Gene
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • CalendarGirl
    In my experience the best way to get a project going again is to put someone new at the top. Often a project will founder because everyone is looking at the small part of the project they've been assigned, especially if the project has been dragging on for awhile. A new project manager forces everyone involved to go back and look at the big picture again. That's when the bottlenecks get identified clearly, revisions can be made and goals for the project can be articulated clearly to everyone involved. One of the most screwy projects I've ever been involved in was one that dragged on for three years -- with people coming and going and changing jobs. By the time management had enough sense to put someone new in charge, almost everyone in the original project had been replaced. Once we had a new leader, everyone had to rethink things and we finished up the project in three months.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to:

To follow this tag...

There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Thanks! We'll email you when relevant content is added and updated.

Following