First Aid for IT Project Failurespost by Chris Curran on July 20, 2009
I spent last week at Boy Scout Camp in Oklahoma. One of the benefits of attending a Scout camp as an adult is the great training opportunities available. This year, I was able to get Red Cross certifications in First Aid, Wilderness First Aid and CPR during the week - all very important when dealing with boys (and adults) in camps away from good cell phone signals.
As I sit here and take a break from sifting through a week’s worth of email, I was wondering what kind of first aid lessons could be applied to the management of IT. One of the questions I hear a lot is what role the CIO has in keeping projects out of trouble. This is especially challenging in large organizations where the CIO has several layers of management (a topic for another post!?)
The main text used in the wilderness first aid class is Mountaineering First Aid, a very comprehensive and practical guide. It outlines a list of contributing causes to mountaineering and climbing accidents:
Bad judgment using equipment:
- Climbing unroped
- Inadequate equipment/clothing
- No hard hat
- Placing no or inadequate protection
- Exceeding abilities
- Climbing alone
- Party separated
- Failing to follow directions
- Bad weather
- Falling rocks
- Chock/nut pulled out
- Inadequate belay
Applying First Aid Lessons to Projects
So, using this framework we can discuss analogous issues and considerations that a CIO could apply in planning and running projects.
Contributing Causes of Failure
Questions for a CIO
Bad Judgment Using Equipment
|How do you build skills in project managers? Other project roles?
Is there an apprenticeship program for junior project managers, implicit or explicit?
How are frameworks and tools used on projects?
|How do you track skills for each IT staff member?
How are assessments performed?
How are individual skill levels used in determining project staffing?
|What external factors contribute to project issues and delays in your organization and industry?
What mechanisms do you have to identify these factors and who is responsible?
What happens when external factors impact a project?
|How do you determine what technologies will be used for each project?
How does your project team coordinate software updates, changes, and versioning with the infrastructure groups?
Do you have someone assigned to each project responsible for maintaining all of the tools and software environments?
How do you make sure your teams are abreast of relevant issues, bugs and updates to vendor products?
Most of these preventative ideas center on having the right people with the right skills and experience staffed to projects. I think that the biggest opportunity in most companies to address this is to create an explicit project staffing function that works with project sponsors and managers to understand the project details and with the various business and IT managers to match the roles to the individuals available.
I am looking forward to your comments and thoughts on this.
Update: Tweaked the CIO Questions to make them more open-ended, per a suggestion by Brunella Longo