It’s perhaps one of the most dreaded but most exciting terms for a CIO – the IT Project. Increasing numbers of IT Projects are taking place each year, with corporations not only starting new ventures utilising computing infrastructure but also upgrading legacy software solutions that often calls for custom solutions when no off-the-shelf upgrade package is available.
Newspapers are full of headlines of IT projects gone wrong. Public sector problems with cost-overruns, bad integrations and sometimes even software that fails to meet its brief. But the private sector isn’t immune either, and fear of the problems associated with IT projects, especially when their scope isn’t easily defined, can lead many organisations to put off starting – something which can and does lead competitors to steal a march on them.
Rigid initial objectives within the project brief are often hinderances further down the line. Many IT projects end up stifling innovation by not permitted later flexibility, often costing firms more in the long run through the need for new systems to be developed.
Instead IT projects should focus only on the final outcome, and base the brief entirely on this. How to reach that outcome will be an evolving process, so the temptation to be overly specific should be avoided. Requirements can change fast too, technology progresses and what seemed a key integration or feature today might not be in six months. Making it integral to the project brief can result in unworkable software.
Many startups have changed their original purpose due to changes in the industry – it’s this agile innovation that allows companies to succeed where they may have failed. The classic example is Flickr, now one of the largest photo hosting websites which exited to Yahoo!, but started just as an online game. If they were too rigid to the brief they’d have stayed a forgotten footnote.