Getting IT projects done on time and on budget

Sam Bloedow

Getting IT projects done on time and on budget

What makes a good IT project?

A good IT project is one that is worth pursuing. It is the best use of IT’s time, employees' time, and company funds—when compared to the return on that investment over the expected life of the technology change. We all want to be doing “Good” IT projects, so how do we get there?

First and foremost, we need to make sure the IT project is the right long-term change for the business. To do so there should be a forward-looking business plan that articulates where the business is headed over the next ten years. It will have a more defined picture of what the business will look like three years from now and have annual goals (the most important next steps to take in the business to get to the three-year picture.) Next, the company’s executives, including the CIO, need to start carefully planning and lay out the IT initiatives that are needed to support the business plan.

Now that we have initiatives that are the right-long term change, we need to quantify the ROI. This is the cost of the project in terms of time and product including the costs of employees' time in adopting and making a change in any behavior needed. Return, recurring product or vendor costs savings but also internal efficiencies like employee time savings each month. Taking this into account we can look to eliminate those with poor ROI and prioritize the IT projects with the greatest ROI.

Next, we need to look at the best use of IT’s time. Does the IT team have the capability to implement this kind of project in terms of skillset and project management methodology? Not all IT teams have the resources and skillset to successfully implement.

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Getting IT projects done on time and on budget

Now that we have IT projects worth pursuing, let's dive into keeping them on time and on budget. In order to achieve those goals, we need a good project management methodology.

First, we need a clear scope of work that will attain the desired business results.

Next, we need engineers with the skillset to execute the scope. From there we need to add project management and coordination for the organization.

Third, we need clear communication of changes to all employees so they know what is needed of them, including any training to set them up for success.

Fourth, consistent status updates so leadership knows the current state and estimated completion of the project.

Fifth, the identification of out-of-scope requests in advance so that they can be communicated to leadership ensuring only the valuable out-of-scope requests are pursued.

Sixth, thorough documentation of the change and hand-off to the IT helpdesk so they can provide meaningful ongoing support.

The role of professional services in managed IT services

The professional services team is the function of IT that implements IT projects, allowing the company to realize the benefits of their IT initiatives. The professional services group of a managed IT service provider allows companies to have access to the expertise and capability when needed, while not having to pay for it when they don’t.

To balance this, a managed IT service provider will keep a backlog. This allows clients to realize the benefits of their project in short order while allowing the managed IT service provider to retain skilled engineers as they know their jobs are secure.

A good professional services team inside of a managed IT service provider operates with laser precision and little to no surprises. The businesses realize the benefits they expected from their project and it further builds confidence, accelerating technology adoption. In contrast, a poor professional services team creates chaos, projects don’t meet the expected benefit. This deteriorates people’s confidence in IT and relying on it for essential business functions, diminishing the company’s appetite for further innovation.

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