Preventing IT Communication Failure Using Agile
There are a number of factors that contribute to an IT project’s failure, and it can rarely be traced back to a singular cause. Whenever I’m assigned to fix a failing IT project, I always start with the most fundamental piece: the IT communication plan. Proper communication is the foundation for a well-oiled project.
I've found that when an IT project is failing, there has almost always been a breakdown in communication. It could be at the partner level, staff level, management, or even with the project stakeholder. A study was performed by McKinsey & Company this year that paints a grim picture.
According to the report, 70 percent of business transformation projects fail -- though the number of successful projects has slowly improved over the past few years.
Why the improvement? I believe the increase in successful projects is directly tied to the increasing use of agile in the project management field.
An Agile Approach
At the partner level, we like to manage our projects using an agile approach. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the term, Forbes has a great article that explains what exactly “agile” is. For us, an agile approach means we manage our projects with multiple meetings. These meetings are intended to be short, three-to-five minute daily checkpoints. A daily stand-up or scrum, if you will.
During these daily stand-ups, each team member contributes to the discussion and advises the team as to:
What they’ve accomplished in the previous 24 hours
Their goals and objectives for the next 24 hours
If there are any roadblocks or obstacles in achieving those goals
The project manager will then assist in removing any blocks or impediments for the team. This ensures they can move forward with their tasks. As a result, these daily calls keep the project moving at the intended pace.
More in-depth status meetings are held monthly. In these meetings, the project manager reviews the scope of all that’s been completed, and will tie that back to the budget. Usually, this detailed status reporting is done with the client-side program sponsor or executive stakeholder, since they’re more concerned about the project at a macro level.
As a project manager, when a project is failing, I check to see if:
The daily stand-up and monthly status meeting communication methods are in place
Other aspects of the communication plan are defective or lacking
Project managers have been trained to identify which issues prevent the success of the project, and then craft a customized approach for each project. Sometimes it’s a communication issue, which would mean the project manager should alter the standard agile communication plan. Other times, it means implementing a communication plan in the first place.
Regardless, if you feel your project isn't moving forward at the proper pace, ask to be assigned a project manager. Nothing makes me happier than being asked to join a floundering project and then helping the team take the project to the finish line successfully.
Darin Rich is a seasoned project management professional with 20 years of experience in ERP implementations. Darin has a bachelors degree in Information Technology and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Darin is a certified Project Management Professional and a Certified Scrum Master.