How to avoid a government IT project disaster | Apr20 Newsletter
Governments want to keep step with the rest of society when it comes to IT, which often means managing large projects. From hardware upgrades and software development to data management, cloud migration and IT services for end users, tight timelines and big budgets are common.
It’s always bad when project-management costs blow out, especially when they involve a government body and the scrutiny that comes with spending from the public purse. Here are some tips to help keep your project out of the news.
Embrace the complexity
Project managers need to go into any large project with their eyes open, which first and foremost means accepting they are complex. Juggling large budgets, human resources and tight deadlines for government means that IT projects are vulnerable to blowouts.
Take a high-level view and delegate responsibilities as needed.
IT’s constant evolution and disruption only adds to the complexity. Delivering a project on time and budget means bringing together labour and resources, following a plan and keeping every moving part working properly.
It’s not easy, but it is important to resist the temptation to oversimplify; embrace the complexity, take a high-level view and delegate responsibilities as needed.
Keep your plan on track
It’s important to understand your project’s goals so you can deliver them on time and on budget. It’s even more important that those goals are both measurable and achievable.
A good way to ensure your plan is on track is to include milestones along the way to mark important deliverables and reporting. Establishing these timelines early and checking them frequently means that problems can be identified and effectively fixed to prevent a disaster.
Choose a project-management methodology and stick with it
Projects are (normally) finite, which means it’s vital to have an appropriate management methodology to ensure everything is delivered on time. There are many tools you can use, and here are three of the most popular:
Critical path method (CPM): CPM requires each task to be finished before starting the next. Thus, carefully planning the sequence and securing the relevant contractors to finish in a timely manner is critical.
Programme evaluation and review technique (PERT): PERT breaks projects down into smaller parts and estimates each one’s the time and cost, making timelines and budgets more predictable and easier to track.
Agile: Agile is a less rigid planning tool than CPM or PERT. It starts with a broad vision, anticipates issues and changes and ensures the system is flexible enough to manage the required changes.
Always be monitoring
While your project’s goals and success criteria may be clearly set, executing the tasks to get there require constant monitoring. That means regular meetings with contractors and other stakeholders. Auditing your budget to prevent blowouts, supervising the scope of work to be carried out and identifying risks and issues all require constant vigilance.
Roll with it
IT projects present several unique project-management challenges. Especially with a large project, there is every chance the technologies being deployed might significantly change before your rollout is done. Such changes can lead to time and cost blowouts if they’re not monitored and managed correctly.
Rushed or poorly planned migrations can lead to security breaches and system failures.
Data migration is another perennial source of heartache. Rushed or poorly planned migrations can lead to security breaches and system failures, both at the point of conflict and in relationships between data, hardware, software and network storage.
Running a large government IT project is not for the faint-hearted. It requires expertise, pinpoint planning skills and flexibility in equal measure. But with the right preparation, you can be confident that you are spending from the public purse in ways that won’t make front-page news.