Ever since the days of the Model T, Americans have taken to the open road. For well over a century – and several generations – humans have made the automobile a ubiquitous fixture on the landscape.
But, despite this ubiquity, and improvements to both cars and roads, 40,000 people still die in thousands of crashes each year – a testament to the role the human factor plays when the driving experience fails.
This is why I recently read with interest an article – “Why IT Projects Fail,” by Mary Pratt, that discussed the continued – and sometimes monumental – failure of IT projects, in a time when new methodologies and management techniques should be protecting against such cataclysms.
You see, no amount of engineering can fully protect mission-critical IT workloads from the occasional lapse in human judgment – whether caused by distraction, lack of knowledge, or other factors.
Though completely eliminating this scourge may be near impossible, it is entirely possible to mitigate the impact of human factors on the failure of IT projects. Let’s look at six ways that you can make your technology more “human-safe”:
1. The “Vision” Thing: Make Sure All Stakeholders Know Where You’re Going
Often, engineers are given a very narrow understanding of the project before them – a list of “needs and requirements,” as it were. But, without communicating the goal of the IT project – and, in particular, its holistic impact on the organization – it omits a very key basis for project understanding. This includes ensuring that all stakeholders have a role in delineating the vision for the project.
As an example, we once worked on a project in the CRM space where the client had an ambitious plan to acquire and customize CRM. Though we delivered the product to spec, once it was rolled out, it was met with a resounding thud among the sales people for whom it was intended – due to of lack of a common and agreed upon vision among stakeholders. The project was eventually scrapped.
2. Prototype With Panache
Using visualization in the IT development process is super critical. If possible, a prototype, or some other form of demonstration, should be employed, so end users – and not just members of management – can “touch and feel” the proposed solution. Typically, in IT project development, more focus tends to be put onto “requirements and features,” and less on user experience (UX).
Using my car example, it would be like deciding that a trip from point A to point B was necessitated, but a 30-year-old Toyota Camry was the vehicle chosen to get there. Without a focus on the user experience, our solution may meet the underlying need, but it lead to a less widespread adoption.
3. Stock the Toolbox
It is said that you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink. This corollary is absolutely true when it comes to the adoption of IT tools. All of the innovations in the world are meaningless, if you don’t adopt a culture of employing best-practices techniques in your shop. At Pegasus One, we adopt techniques like RAD (rapid application development) and use low-code programming tools like OutSystems to help us troubleshoot issues due to overlooked requirements, unanticipated complications or inadequate resources.
There also are a proliferation of automation testing and continuous integration tools that can significantly remove the “human factor” from the quality assurance and deployment phases – further mitigating the potential for people-oriented “slip-ups.”
4. Cross-Pollinate and Collaborate
Lack of interdepartmental communication is an age-old problem that can sink many a well-intentioned project. But this is particularly true with IT workloads – nearly two-thirds of respondents to a PwC global survey cited lack of collaboration as the top blocker to digital transformation.
We always prescribe that project teams consist of members from across functional areas. This helps to foster shared responsibility and pride in ownership. We suggest that this team – and all direct and indirect stakeholders – be defined prior to initiation of the project. It’s also key to identify a process to engage and collaborate with the team to seek continuous feedback.
5. Paint a Picture of Success
In the PMI 2017 Pulse of the Profession report, it is proffered that the ability to deliver upon the project’s full benefits is a much more important measure of success than simply scope, time, and cost. It is critical to understand the “value” that a project adds to a client’s business. As an example, if you are a startup with a limited budget, and wish to develop a prototype or MVP (minimum viable product) for funding, you can use an application like Sencha or OutSystems to gauge investor and end-user acceptability before taking up full blown development.
6. Evolve – or Die
Sometimes, a personnel change is the only way to remove failure from the equation. If you are taking on a project that is reliant on specific knowledge, or new technologies, you will want to invest properly in either retraining your existing personnel, or lining up the right engineers for the job. I know of a specific implementation where the team engaged in the process didn’t possess the knowledge or expertise necessary to develop a secure or scalable code. Though the released product was functional, it had a nasty habit of crashing when the app was hit by as few as 100 users. Our team at Pegasus One was called in to refactor the code and re-architect the system to correct these issues on the fly.
Finally, bear in mind that IT project development is an iterative process –failure sometimes is inevitable during the development phase, to ensure that such failures don’t make it to the public release. As long as you keep a keen eye on validation, you’ll ensure your IT project maintains its steady travel on the road to success!