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Learning from IT Heartbreak

All IT outfits make mistakes in pursuit of excellence. Unfortunately, that often leads to various forms of jadedness (L2 Reactive Mode) or despondency (L3 Alignment State). Pearl Zhu advises the CIO, and IT leadership in general, to reinvent its reaction to failure. Heartbreak happens, but hey, the prospect of innovation never dies.

People and Problems

People drive technology. Everywhere you look in the organization, you’ll find people failing or succeeding to improve the IT experience. Therefore it is imperative that managers focus on people as they respond to and learn from project failure. Some common sob stories related to human-based failure are:

  • My senior executives won’t sponsor IT projects.
  • No stakeholder will properly buy in to my IT projects.
  • Our value propositions are weak, or our value propositions have failed to blossom into deliverables.
  • We’re weak on risk management.
  • There are management failures – too much spreadsheet gazing and not enough real action on deliverables.
  • Project teams are overloaded with responsibilities.
  • Status reports are too patchy to be useful.
  • Vendors break their delivery promises. *sob*

Positive Leadership to the Rescue

When the world is crumbling all around your IT department, your one saving grace comes in the form of good leadership. And when projects do go well, it’s important for IT leaders to make a big stink about it (to offset all those failures). Because, when IT projects go well (and they do go well) they tend to go really well. Let’s face it. In the digital age, IT is a game-changer for businesses. If we could get through the sob stories to the really important lessons about risk, this ‘IT failure stigma’ might just melt away like another bad dream.

Principles of IT Risk Endurance

To counteract all that risk and heartbreak in the IT management world, Zhu offers several principles that will never fail the professional in search of perfection:

  • A project check list
  • Retaining all project members for the duration of a project
  • Getting people to oversee and sponsor the project
  • Defining the project well before launch
  • An agile approach to learning

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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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