How To Avoid IT Project Waste


Management often bemoans the fact that IT projects fail to be delivered on time and within budget. And the truth is, the IT spending waste that occurs in our industry is at times mind-boggling. At F. Curtis Barry & Company, we currently have four clients—ranging in size from $7 million to $650 million in sales—all struggling with the same schedule and budget problems as they attempt to implement new order management and warehouse management systems. Another client invested $350,000 with one of the industry’s leading OMS companies, but after a failed implementation, backed off the project. 

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What’s at the root of this waste? It’s the lack of project management on both the client and the vendor side. Here are some tips based on the lessons we’ve learned that could help you avoid the same fate with your IT implementations.

  • It starts with the deal. Some projects should simply never be. Usually it begins when management accepts the vendor’s selling proposal, which turns out to be flawed. Take the case of one of our largest clients: They have been struggling for two years now to work with the vendor, basically to rewrite much of the vendor’s system. The client is determined because there is a huge potential ROI. But while it will be a big deal for the vendor when it gets finished, it is taking them off their commercial systems path. The client should have looked at the proposal more realistically at the start.
  • You have to have a plan. Vendor proposals are full of boilerplate—simple task schedules and bar graphs. The real plans for a complex systems implementation require all the details to be thought out, agreed to and then scheduled. One mistake companies make is that they don’t update the plan weekly; they may use it to get started, but then the updating is infrequent. Also, plans often don’t take dependencies into account; everybody involved is continually surprised because the major subtasks are not in synch with each other.
  • Who is in charge? Both the client and the vendor have to have a project manager. Too many times the client leaves that up to the vendor—and that’s a bad idea. For one thing, the vendor doesn’t know your business or organization. For another, it’s expensive. The client needs to be in control of the process and the implementation.
  • How often do you talk? As we all know, systems projects involve a lot of verbal and written communication, with documents constantly passing back and forth. It would seem on the surface that you are talking many times every day. But that’s really not the issue. You should have weekly meetings between the two parties, conducted by the two project managers, reviewing the total project and the schedule and resetting objectives, if necessary. Other critical parties can and should join, if available. Then the two project managers should circulate the updated schedule and meeting notes. Once you’re inside 30-45 days, you should be having a brief conversion meeting daily. This is an excellent way for all parties to stay committed to each other and to get the implementation done.

If you commit to follow these basics religiously, everything else should fall in line. As a result you’ll have a much better chance of finishing your IT project on time and within budget.