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IT Project Management: 10 Less-Considered Keys to Success

By Meridith Levinson, CIO
June 23, 2010 11:52 AM ET

CIO - What's the recipe for project management success? Many IT professionals agree that buy-in and support from top management, clearly defined scope and requirements, good communication, and the right project resources top the list of key ingredients.

Those aren't the only factors influencing the successful outcome of a project, of course. IT professionals also rank a project management methodology (or process or framework), the need to manage expectations, and a highly skilled project manager as crucial.

Recently, 83 members of the CIO Forum on LinkedIn essentially developed a comprehensive guide to project success factors while participating in a discussion on ways to ensure the successful delivery of an IT project.

Some of the top success factors mentioned were obvious--others, less so. Here, CIO.com shares some of the less obvious, but no less important, factors influencing project success. (And by less obvious, we mean factors that don't immediately come to mind, get easily overlooked or that get short shrift when the going gets tough on a project.) We compiled this list, which is by no means exhaustive, based on comments raised in the CIO Forum discussion and during phone interviews with project management experts. Feel free to leave your two cents in the comments section below.

1. A Clear Definition of Success

You can't achieve success if you don't know what it looks like, maintain several members of the CIO Forum. Steve Hawthorne, global project manager at Integra LifeSciences, says project success must be defined in terms that are meaningful to the business.

"Too often as IT professionals, we assume that success is defined as on time, on budget, and meeting the defined requirements," wrote Hawthorne in the CIO Forum. "While these are important, it is [equally] important to understand the expected value proposition of the project and to drive project efforts to ensure that it is achieved."

In other words, even if the project is completed on time, on budget, and meets all requirements, it may still be considered a failure if it doesn't deliver the expected business value.

2. A Willingness to Make Unpopular Decisions

Bronnie Brooks, an IT consultant and project manager who participated in the CIO Forum discussion, told CIO.com that she's had to make tough decisions over the years that were unpopular with either her client, her manager or her team in order to keep projects on time, within budget and with the right resources intact. For example, she says she once had to tell a client that a feature they were expecting in an upcoming software release wouldn't make it and that they would have to wait for the following release, a year later. Another time, she had to move a team member a client liked onto another project on which that team member's skills were needed.

Making tough decisions about project resources and priorities can be difficult for some IT project managers who want to please everyone and who want to believe, like everyone else, that the project will work out, Brooks says. But making tough calls is crucial, she adds.

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