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White Paper

Three Steps to Ensure the Success of Your IT Projects

Dec. 17, 2015
Tim McClintock


Projects are often complex, made up of a large number of moving pieces and bring numerous challenges. But, by using the three key steps mentioned in this white paper during your project planning and execution phases, your ability to achieve success is greatly enhanced. The steps enable you to identify stakeholders, manage requirements and set a course for achievable expectations.


In so many respects project management seems like it would be fairly straightforward. You identify and gather a group of highly skilled people, clarify your goals and objectives, develop a budget, and create a schedule. What could be easier?

The reality is projects do not always go the way we would like them to. We often find ourselves being asked to do more with less and at a faster pace than ever before. Sometimes we are successful in our efforts despite these negating factors. Other times these factors cannot be overcome and contribute to significantly less than optimal results and even project failure. The following is a list of additional factors that contribute to project failure:

 - poor communication
 - inadequate planning
 - lack of control
 - lack of upper management support
 - poor risk planning
 - lack of end-user support
 - missed deadlines
 - unrealistic expectations
 - complex technological issues

Some causes of project failure are beyond anyone's control, but more often than not, we can take courses of action that will help ensure project success. The following is a list of just some of the factors that lead to project success:

 - effective communication
 - executive support and organizational commitment
 - clear project definition, business objectives, and requirements
 - an effective team and support structure
 - a practical plan and expectations tailored to fit the project and its team
 - clear roles and responsibilities
 - the involvement of skilled resources, including experienced project managers
 - adequate risk management and quality methods
 - integrated change control, including scope, schedule, and cost
 - the use of a standard, consistent, and practical project methodology

Achieving success in project management is simply the result of emphasizing the fundamentals. Many key factors contribute to project success, but three of the most basic - stakeholder identification and analysis, effective communication, identifying project requirements, stakeholder expectations, and scope of work.

1. Stakeholder Identification and Analysis

A stakeholder is a person, group of people, department, or organization that may be affected either positively or negatively by the execution or delivery of a project. Stakeholders may be actively or passively involved with the project, and they can include individuals or groups such as the following:

 - project managers
 - sponsors
 - customers
 - end users
 - portfolio managers
 - program managers
 - project management office
 - decision makers
 - project team members
 - functional managers
 - senior managers
 - other project managers
 - business partners
 - vendors and contractors
 - governmental bodies such as regulatory agencies

These are the people who have a vested interest in the outcome of the project. Identifying stakeholders is especially important during the initial phases of the project, when they can have a great deal of influence. The Project Management Institute's (PMI®'s) guiding document, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), has devoted four of the forty-seven identified project management processes to stakeholders. As with many aspects of project management, the easiest way for the project management team to identify stakeholders is to ask questions. Here are a few examples of questions to ask:

 - Who should be involved in the project?
 - Who is already involved in the project?
 - Who will make a contribution?
 - Who might impact the project?
 - Who might seek to influence the project and do they have any contradictory interests?
 - Which stakeholders might be in conflict with the projects goals and objectives?
 - Who has "bought in" and who has not?
 - How does the completed successful project affect them?
 - What do they have at stake?
 - What is their sphere of influence?
 - What do they bring to the table?
 - Can the project succeed without them?

Stakeholders may affect or be affected by the project, through a project decision, activity or outcome, or they may simply perceive themselves to be affected by the project's execution. The impact or perceived impact on or of a stakeholder can be either positive or negative in nature.

Most projects have a very large number of stakeholders. Identifying all stakeholders increases the chance of project success. You must secure and document relevant information about their interests, interdependencies, influences, potential involvement, and probable impact on the project definition, execution, and final results. After obtaining this information, classify the stakeholders according to their characteristics. This approach will allow you to focus on key relationships that are critical to project success.

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