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TECHNOLOGY

Who's Sponsoring Your IT Projects?

An alarming number of IT projects flat out fail--and they wouldn't with a little more C-level support.
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The next time you get the ball rolling on an IT project at your company, keep these numbers from the Standish Group in mind:

  • Just 37 percent of IT projects are successful.
  • 42 percent go over budget, aren’t completed on time, or don’t deliver what they’re supposed to.
  • And 21 percent flat out fail.

Yikes. Those numbers, reported in Computerworld by Minda Zetlin, beg the question: What does it take to get these damn things right?

Standish Group chairman Jim Johnson revealed a key finding in the report. “Johnson says the projects that succeeded either had skilled executive sponsors or were ‘purely mechanical’ undertakings that required no business-side buy-in,” Zetlin writes.

A C-suite sponsor to help guide IT projects? Isn’t that why you have an IT director in the first place? Maybe in theory. But as Gary Heusner, a partner at software company Geneca with a tech background, tells Zetlin, “IT doesn’t fully own the business concerns. If we were meant to be the chief marketing officer or chief operating officer, those are the jobs we would have.”

Although an IT head might put up blinders--intentionally or otherwise--to broader organizational concerns during the course of a project, the oversight of a CEO, CFO, or COO will keep those concerns on the radar. The sponsor might also form a steering committee with representatives from across the organization whose departments might be touched by the project.

So who’s your project’s sponsor?

Sponsors shouldn’t be assigned--or even rotated. Some projects might need the CMO, others the COO. It depends on the project.

Zetlin cites the example, voiced by GlassHouse Technologies CTO James Damoulakis, of data-storage projects. With the cost of storage soaring, IT might be tasked with finding a cheaper alternative--even though cost does not typically rank high on the list of IT concerns. “So you need a push from someone like the CFO to make sure everyone will comply,” Damoulakis says.

But even if organizational role and expertise are important, Jill Dychè writes in the compelling blog post “Six Archetypes of a Bad Executive Sponsor,” the prospective sponsor’s personality and circumstances are also factors. “The best executive sponsors are those who choose the role. The second best sponsors are those who vet the role that’s requested of them. They ask what needs to be done in the role, decide whether or not they could contribute, and inherently know that they’ll be effective before saying yes,” writes Dychè, the vice president of thought leadership at SAS.

This article originally appeared at The Build Network.




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