Greg Daley, Solutions Architect at Logicalis Australia, identifies five risks common to significant technology transformations, and are applicable across software, infrastructure, and applications.
IT transformation projects are carried out to enhance the technical and business environment to an agreed level. These IT-enabled organisation changes come in many forms.
Some projects involve low risk, incremental changes to existing processes, others are high risk and innovation heavy, requiring large-scale implementations of company-wide systems, carried out in partnership with a vendor.
IT transformation projects have always been risky; sooner or later, most of them run into trouble. And these risks only multiply when new, untried technologies are added to the mix.
- Lack of common vision and cooperation between customer and vendor
Key to ensuring project success is that the vendor cares about and delivers the desired outcome for the customer. This means investing the time to understand the customer’s vision and the key impacts a transformation project will have on the organisation. In order to deliver the project, cooperation is necessary at all project stages, with stakeholders keeping this vision in mind.
- Project scoping and budget mismatch
Typical sales and tender process require vendors to interpret requirements closely and exclude extraneous components and functions. In many cases, however, tenders are unclear about the requirements and cost implications, which can lead to incorrect project scoping or incorrect estimations as to the costs required for implementation. Full validation and clarification of the costed items is necessary, as well as frank discussion around the relative cost impacts, so that these costs can be supported through to executive stakeholders.
- Design and requirements mismatch
To ensure project success, a project design should be made to embody the customer’s goals and requirements, and tests carried out to demonstrate that these are able to be met. Should changes in customer requirements emerge (due to incomplete processes or changes in customer priorities), the scope and feasibility of a solution will be impacted.
- Lack of effective project management controls
The project managers on both the customer and vendor side need to understand and control the project based on the agreed plan, and deviate only if this is in the interest of both parties. Where project management is either unenforced or overly rigid, consequential risks to the timeline and cooperation complications are likely to arise.
- Technical feasibility and operational challenges
Technical challenges will arise regarding the implementation or migration of functions within the customer network, such as bugs, which can be triggered due to the unique customer environment. Project teams from both the customer and vendor side need to be able to identify practical solutions which will enable project progress even in the case that further works for troubleshooting and bug fixing are required.
Don’t be a statistic
These five threats may seem blindingly obvious, but most failed projects reveal clear, early warning signs that indicate risks but these are often missed, ignored or not managed. As a result, many organisations pursue IT transformation projects that do not succeed in achieving key objectives.
It’s crucial that the five common risks outlined above are acknowledged from the beginning and managed throughout the duration of the project and within the wider context of organisational and behavioural change. This way, risk is managed more effectively because the project is properly defined within the business environment, threats are clearly identified, and mitigation plans developed.