When it comes to e-business and Internet projects, please disregard the hype, hysteria and consultancy-speak. The critical success factors for these projects are exactly the same as for other IT related projects. The scale may be greater, the stakes higher and the speed faster, but the issues are the same. What caused failure before will do so again. In fact, a staggering nine out of 10 IT and e-projects fail to be delivered on time, within budget and meeting the real needs of the organisation.
All initiatives – e- and otherwise – have two elements: people and process. Many IT professionals will claim people are more important, as they rush off to install the latest software. But project success comes down to people, people and people, not technology, methodologies, nor lines of code. For this reason, the HR department has a huge influence over e-initiatives.
Decide now that on all your projects people will come first and you will be a champion of the new business age. Put a group of unstoppable talent in a room and anything is possible. Drown them with milestones, software and e-terminology, and the chances of failure increase dramatically.
So, what can you do as an HR leader? Looking across a range of Internet projects, I have drawn together the following critical success factors – all based around people:
HR directors need to help to establish a common language among the project team – free of jargon. Otherwise, you risk alienating people.
For successful IT-based projects, decisions are never made in monthly project reviews. The real, honest, open discussions and action take place between colleagues, each and every day.
Every member of a team must value their colleagues whether they like each other or not. Any conflicts that emerge have to be resolved, even if this means bringing in a facilitator.
Get commitment from the highest level. But also ensure that everyone involved buys into the project at a deep personal level – in other words, putting their name on it.
Never lose sight of the deadline. A project manager I know treats projects as if he was preparing for the first night of a play. A paying audience is expecting results on a set date, so the play has to be ready on that day, and has to be outstanding.
Something often lacking in the project failures I have analysed. The key test of whether HR and IT are working in partnership is when things are not going so well. That is the time to stick together.
IT departments realise their future is as an enabler to bring together people and technology. They have to work with other departments. Harness this asset for the benefit of the business.
By David Taylor, president of the association of IT directors, Certus. firstname.lastname@example.org