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How to Catch the ‘Three Blind Mice’ of Project Failure

When you look at the level of project failure that is tolerated in the IT sector, it’s a wonder that so little has changed over such a long period of time. Yet Adam Hunt identifies what he views as the three primary problems of IT project failure in an article for CIO New Zealand.

Three Blind Mice of Project Failure

  1. Quality problems (time, cost, and functionality)
  2. Divergent objectives
  3. Reporting inadequacies

No. 1 – Functionality

Perhaps the hardest ‘mouse’ to catch is the aspect of quality called functionality. It’s not that a project won’t achieve functionality per se. But the functionality that’s considered desirable might change by the time the project finally arrives. In order to catch this first mouse, we need to turn to the other two.

No. 2 – Objectives

Beyond the simple technical check-offs, there are more effective ways to keep a project on a safe course, such as simply asking “Why?” or by constantly reaffirming what the end state of the project will look like. Catching this second mouse can be best summarized as follows:

Whatever the approach, the idea is to support identification of the steps to deliver the outcome (and how to test whether we have finished), schedule and allocate people (commonly referred to as resources, which I guess is a slight improvement on “cargo”) and so on.

No. 3 – Reporting

Finally then, the mouse of reporting and tracking is caught when we realize that every project has what one might call a maven. A maven is one who understands the project on a fundamental level. Like in a chess game, the maven has to be brought close to the project leader in order to uncover important project signals. Additionally, you should illicit project feedback from individuals on the team, though it’s best to consider the psychological effects of using this method before the survey is emailed to staff. Between the maven and staff feedback, you’ve now got yourself a functional risk barometer to capture the third mouse.

Through effective tracking and reporting, objectives become clear. Once objectives become clear, the proper functionality will then fall into place. In sum, you now can put the carving knife away, knowing there are better ways to capture IT project success.

Read the original article at:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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