Seventhman Blog

  1. Why Do IT Projects Fail Big Time?

    "IT project failure"In the world of IT, projects do crash and burn.. a lot of times lately.  When things go wrong, who’s to blame?  Before you go on a witch hunt for the next responsible person, you ought to dig deeper for you to come up with a permanent solution.  It’s never an easy job though, but doable nonetheless.  While it’s better to talk about why IT projects succeed, to know why they fail can help improve the chances for many of us who are missing goals terribly.  According to a recent study featured by Cio.com, 50 percent of companies had experienced IT project failure in the last 12 months.  You start to wonder if there’s a shortage of project managers or skilled IT workers (or both).

    Don’t Blame It on IT

    Let’s set aside for a moment this tech fiasco where Obamacare is concerned.  While working as a software developer helped me acquire logical and problem-solving skills, I just feel it’s totally unfair to blame it all on IT when things go wrong.  Did you know that most IT project fail because of poor management?  It’s very rare that failure is due to major technical hurdles.  Key to the success of any undertaking is assigning the right tasks to the right people, plus, defining clear goals and responsibilities.  Just because developers are working in tech doesn’t mean expecting them to behave like computers too.  When leadership is lacking, programmers can get lost in a maze of confusion (not to mention, frustration).

    The Constantly-Evolving Role of Project Managers

    Gone are the days when managers send out orders to be followed by their minions.  The role has evolved into something so dynamic that it involves human relations.  It’s not only making sure that deadlines are met and everyone adhere to best practices, but project managers should also communicate and motivate their team to be their best.  Still, we see many who are stuck in the old mindset that they’re not ready to implement change management, no matter how Agile they think they are.  One of the biggest failure that a project manager can commit is not aligning goals between team players and stakeholders.  They’re supposed to bridge the gap and create trust; instead, they are putting everyone on gridlock until everyone decides to quit and call it a long day.

    Looking at the Real Problem

    Because it’s easy, when IT projects fail – people will simply look at the IT department to blame.  It’s not really the case.  Most of the time, it’s lack of resources that contributed to the failure.  As enterprises move to the cloud, we see demands in adopting more application, adding to the backlogs of the IT team.  Nobody really cares how people work on it so long as it’s delivered in lightning speed.  Soon, your team feels overworked and confused on what to prioritize first.  While you can argue that this can be easily fixed by project managers, most often, they add to the burden by simply not admitting that there’s a problem in the first place.  You can’t blame them though when they’re expected to run things to spotless perfection.  Should the founders be blamed then for such unrealistic expectations?  Accountability should run from top to bottom, no exceptions!

    No matter, if you embrace failure as a testing ground instead of your final destination, you might just win the race to the next disruptive technology around.

     

    **Something new is coming.  Stay Tuned!

     

     

  2. IT, Project Management and The Impossible Dream

    "project management"Is there such a thing as a perfect project management method?  As businesses are struggling to implement Agile with all the rapid iteration in the hope of coming up with something innovative, the pressure is on.  We’re currently in the last quarter of the year and one can only look back to January to see if you’ve got more items ticked on your wish list.  From status reporting, budgeting, managing teams to numerous technology that allows you to do all these in a breeze, surely, there’s one (or more) things you would like to wish for this coming 2014?

    An IT Project Manager’s Wish List

    You might wonder why I’m writing about this too early when we are a few months’ away from the coming of the new year.  The thing is, there’s never such a thing as ‘too early’ or ‘too late’ if you want to implement real change, right now.  I believe that most of you can relate to one or more of the items here:

    Wish #1 Managing the Right Team

    While every project manager wishes for the best team, it is only the best project managers who can bring out the best in each person (no matter how hopeless).  Would you agree?

    Wish #2 Getting More Involved

    For those of you who are working with big organizations, being included in key management decisions is an ultimate dream.  It would feel so much better when the right expectations are set because IT is not some magic pill that will solve every issue in the business.

    Wish #3 Clarity

    In line with the item above, if there’s strong leadership support, it’s easier to manage stakeholders.  Having a clear objective and clearly communicating it can help avoid delays, slipups and all the ugly situations in between.

    Wish #4 User-Friendly Project Management and Collaboration Tools

    While the internet is rich with tools to get things done, finding something simple for everyone on the team to use is just a minor challenge; getting everyone to accept the idea of using it is another.

    Wish #5  Earning Trust and Respect

    Project management is about respecting, empowering and entrusting your team.  It’s seldom that project managers get to earn their team’s respect especially in running a diverse team of skills, personalities and dreams.  Only a few has conquered the unimaginable..

    And wouldn’t any IT project manager want issues to be resolved by themselves, that resources can be put on auto-mode to keep everyone productive, and that clients won’t make any request for changes?  Now, these are wishful thinking.

    In reality, project management is not for project managers alone and there will always be unique challenges to face.  One thing’s for sure though: Technology speeds up the way we work and communicate, helping us make better and informed decisions.

    Is there a wish you have right now where managing your IT project is concerned?  I am no genie, but my experience allows me to guide you in the right direction.  How Can I Help?

     

     

     

  3. The Science and Art of Building a Great Software Team

    "software team"Just like coding, building a great software developer team is also an art and getting the right people on board is still a work-in-progress for many. It’s not so much about the smartest, the most experienced that counts.. but the right people who will fit in skill-wise and personality-wise.  The last thing you want is for your project to fail simply because your team didn’t work well.  The reasons are many and if you will be honest to admit it, not all of us work well with others.  You might be stuck with such a team right now so the next question is, how can you turn things around to help them become more productive?

    Are You Ready to Shake Things Up?

    There’s a reason that big brands are still sourcing outside help even if they have talents in-house.  Would you agree that diversity is the biggest contributing factor to a project’s success?  Sometimes, you simply need a second opinion (or third, fourth and so on).  If you’re tired of the same old scene where everyone agrees just to get things done, how about encouraging some conflict?  The last thing you want is stagnation.  It will surprise you that when tension runs high, ideas come in an endless supply as everyone continue to raise the bar higher – to come up with something innovative.  You must be lucky if you find a devil’s advocate in your group, of brilliant mind disrupting mediocrity to come up with something amazing.  The problem is, not everyone can identify the outliers from the real artists.

    When It Comes to Successful Software Teams, Size Does Matter

    And to top it off, I’d say bigger is not always better.  While there are varying opinions on what the ideal team size is, anything that’s not double-digit is great to start with.  Hiring small means easily managing less people and faster communication with key people.  Keeping it small is also great for boosting dedication and morale where each person will take ownership of his/her own code.  When you work with a small team, this will also mean that you can afford to pay senior developers more.  We all know that coming up with better codes and designs are best left to those who can make better decisions.  If you can’t really keep it small, I’d say break large teams into smaller teams with leaders on every hub.

    Looking Beyond Agile

    There will always be a gap between software developers who are code-oriented and business people who are strategy-oriented.  While agile is great for trying to improve from the mistakes of the past, you have to look beyond the software development stage for you to create something that equates to great user experience.  Agile may help measure your working software, but the idea is not really user-centric.  More meetings don’t really mean productive meetings.  Talking about the requirement everyday just adds more tension between IT and business.  Instead, each one should understand the business side of things and the end users more.  At the end of the day, software is not just a bunch of codes; it must be usable.  In short, development teams are not only about creating codes, but creating experience too.

    To build a great software is not like building automobiles.  There must be a balance between methodology and the creative process to make it work.

    Truth is, effective teams don’t just happen overnight. You have to put in the human side of things – to trust and protect your team may be the next best step you can take… would you agree?

     

     

     

  4. Five Signs That Your IT Project is Doomed to Fail

    "IT project failure signs"If there’s one truth you need to know about IT projects, it’s this:  They’re not created equal.  There are countless stories where all efforts went up in flames even before the software went live.  The risk is multiplied by ten if you’re an entrepreneur who knows little to nil of what your project is all about.  Just how can you spot signs that your IT project is failing?  When prevention is better than a cure, you need to check your project’s health and be proactive in looking for red flags – so you can walk away and minimize damages.  Besides, your business depends on it too.

    Making Decisions Smarter, Faster & Intuitive

    Last time, I have shared with you my thoughts on rapid iterations, to have a radical approach so you can fail fast and small.  The trouble is that you think it’s just too late to quit and so you struggle on a long and winding road that seems to lead you nowhere with your IT project.  The early signs that your project is doomed are really hard to measure objectively, but it’s not easy to spot if you keep an open eye and see these signs:

    1.  Lack – As in lack of interest among your team or stakeholders, lack of speed in moving the project forward, lack of good communication, lack of metrics, lack of detailed plans, lack of consistent management or lack of success in each milestone you’ve set..

    2.  Scope Creep – In relation to the first item, the project takes more resources, money and time to get done than you have originally planned for.

    3.  Testing Later (or Never) – You have a great idea and testing if it works is essential to its success.  You should test in all scenarios and gather data, whether it yields good or bad results.  There’s little to zero involvement with real users (or representatives in multiple departments for bigger companies).

    4.  No Plan B – Just like in life, things can go wrong.  If your IT project don’t have a recovery/risk management plan, you’re up for a big trouble.  Many who failed were too excited to go live only to hit serious downtime without ever having to recover.

    5. 80/20 – As in 80% issues and 20% resolution.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something is wrong when more problems pile up instead of being resolved.

    For the same way that these signs are contributing to the wide gap between IT and business, you must see signs of distress where your IT project is concerned so you can take action while there’s still time.  You may even invite an expert to give you sound advice so you can make informed decisions without having to lose a lot.

    Now, the only thing you have to deal with is your ego.  Are you willing to let go of that idea when dire circumstances are calling for it?

     

     

     

  5. The Fine Line Between Project Managers and Project Leaders

    "project manager"There are no bad projects, only bad management. While I would love to debate on this line with a fellow entrepreneur over a cup of our favorite brew, it made me think of what really caused a project failure.  Is it really about lack of management.. or leadership?  While mistakes can often be time-consuming and costly to deal with, many projects often take longer to complete than what was expected.  When your project manager cannot consistently deliver on time and within budget, you begin to wonder:  Is it the people, the methods, the tools – or.. all?  While creating your own business may seem like a dream come true, know that in the rat race of the business world, your team is the greatest investment you can ever have.

    Looking Through the Eyes of a Successful Project Manager

    While I’d rather call them ‘project leaders’, a good project manager is someone whose passion for the job reflects in his/her every action.  This enthusiasm is highly contagious that it inspires the entire team.  Experience leading people to succeed is just one of the prerequisites.  The best project managers around have the gift of foresight enabling them to anticipate issues before they even happen.  They listen closely at what is going on right now, analyze things to the last minute detail, and communicate every milestone clearly to everyone involved.  They organize each goals to make sure work is done one step at a time.  The only difference perhaps is that great project managers trust on others to be successful.  Everything is about team work; not a one-man team.

    Project Management Mistakes Do Happen

    For the sake of the argument that ‘nobody’s perfect’, the hardest thing to do perhaps is admitting a mistake when it is done.  It is not just skill set that defines good management, but people skills as well.  This is why it is important to have a balance – from drafting realistic timelines, being flexible to change and ideas, consistent and clear communication, having an organized system to track progress, involving the team behind the project.. to being transparent.  Above all, that person needs to respect and trust every player to do their best.  Meetings can be noisy, no doubt, and it is the project manager’s job to stay engaged and motivate even the most shy of introverts to participate in the process.

    Quantifying Success Through Cost Effective Innovation

    Staying ahead of the innovation curve is a tough challenge for business owners.  Having worked in the IT field before transitioning to the business world, I’d say that failures do happen because the CEO has a different concept of success vs. that of the project manager.  This is why it is crucial to measure the success rate of a project by knowing if it is within schedule, budget and scope.  In the end, the quality of work will be the silent testament to it all.  All that effort done where the business landscape is concerned may be futile if you don’t have a blueprint to follow.  Project managers can always choose to keep the team happy, or struggle in misery.

    And if you ever have an awesome project manager right now, perhaps it’s time to give that person your appreciation.  It doesn’t cost much to say ‘Thanks for a job well done!’  The reward doesn’t have to be monetary all the time.

     

    Related Readings:

    Bridging Outsourcing and Innovation in the 21st Century
    Innovation: Managing Risks and Portfolios Explained
    Managing Virtual Teams: Five Keys to Success

  6. How to Keep Agile in a World of Traditional Contracts

    "agile contract"In the race to meet the demand for something cheaper, faster and better – many organizations find it challenging that their agile practices are in major conflict with existing project management standards.  While consultants, service providers and software developers from various countries utilize the agile framework, you just wonder how things will work out, especially when adopting this lean concept to your outsourced project.  The fact is that there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all-solution where this agile practice is concerned.  The issue is not really about the nature of an agile project but rather, how everyone will transition to make the contract effective as they work for a common goal.  How do you really do it.. or, can you really do it?

    Finding the Right Answer with the Right Question

    Keep in mind that the concept of agile is an ever-evolving one and there’s no common definition for it.  You may read a manifesto about the topic, but it’s more of how you will all work as a team to deliver business value that matters.  In this case, it is important for you to have the same idea of what agile will be before you even sign that contract with your client.  The last thing you want is a mismatch in perceptions that will lead to frustrations and distrust.  You also have to be upfront on how you will get paid by agreeing on the scope of work or the ‘iteration’, and the price for that.  You will have to calculate compensation for extra work as well and make sure that the fee schedule is fair for both parties.  You also have to include project review in the process, like how will you get paid when bugs happen?  What’s the feedback timeframe?  Therefore, in order to achieve quality deliverable, you have to work on constant and consistent communication using technology accessible to everyone.. and make sure that transparency rules from start to finish.

    Resistance to Change vs. Responding to Change

    While contracts are legal reflections of people’s wants and fears, keep in mind that they don’t give birth to successful projects.  It is collaboration and trust that build the bond between a client and a service provider.  The trouble is, once a contract is signed and the development phase rolls, everyone is mixed up on what the real scope is and what constitutes a revision in the contract.  Is it the request for changes that leads to arguments where Agile is concerned?  Perhaps, it’s more likely about a lack of change.  Not everyone can follow these changes too and when new requirements emerge, old ones are overlooked and misinterpretations may arise.  Think of it as a beautiful piece of architecture – aesthetically pleasing from the outside, but dysfunctional on the inside.  Is it much safer to draft a contract the traditional way then?

    Agile Development and the Unconventional Contract

    When we speak of contracts, we often think about fixed price models which may not necessarily apply to work done by cross-functional teams.  Other than disputes, changing the contract structure can have legal implications and this approach is definitely not for everyone.  Sometimes, the simplest way to make sure that the process is least disruptive is to keep the plan from your customers, unless they ask.  Or, if your customers don’t like what you came up with, then, they don’t have to pay for it.  It can work if you have deep pockets though.  You may also have a rolling contract where your clients pay regularly in response to project delivery… the options are plenty and so are the risks.  The real question is how ready are you to make your clients sign that contract without having to define the project’s scope.. and still, giving them the assurance that they’ll get what they pay for?