The Cost of Mismanaged IT Projects: Part 2

This is part two of a two-part series exploring the importance of project management and quality assurance as it relates to the success of IT projects today. Read part one: The Cost of Mismanaged IT Projects. Here, we discuss the top reasons project management and quality assurance are critical to IT project success and the actual costs when they are absent.

1. No Dog in the Fight

While still parts of the team, project managers and quality assurance members are independent of the specific project scope. Their roles are to ensure the scope is managed and tested, and are less about what the scope actually is. Given this, it makes sense for organizations to place the burden of managing the project plan and quality controls with them. The very definition of project managers – or depending on the organization, some version of the project management office or IT planning office – and quality assurance teams are to demand and drive project visibility, transparency and accountability.

Project managers drive visibility through the identification of project activities, project deliverables and their estimates – and by identifying the dependencies that may or may not exist among them. They also drive accountability and performance by measuring actuals against the plan. Using estimates based on work, instead of duration, provides management with data to assess progress and allows them the ability to forecast.

Quality assurance, on the other hand, demands visibility through scope clarification activities, and by ensuring project requirements are met through testing. It is often critical for organizations to know as soon as possible if their target launch date is at risk. And most business leaders know the value of identifying and alerting the organization when a project starts to show warning signs of issues that could cost time, money or sacrifice on the quality of the deliverables. Having proper controls built in early to the QA testing analysis is one way to increase the ability to identify those warning signs, not to mention the probability of meeting deliverable dates.

2. Project Performance Estimation

An unpopular reality: Project and task estimation based on work (not duration) is often the hardest project skill to master, and the hardest to incorporate into planning activities. Task estimations take time and practice, and affording project teams the time to do this is challenging if organizations have not adopted it as an essential first step to the project.

The real value-add is gaining the level of detail needed to provide project performance data to assess project delivery success – and that cannot be realized without task estimation.

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Skills like project estimation, what to do with or how to identify task dependencies, and project forecasting – or identifying the amount of work to do and what is left to do – can be very hard to master, and even harder to incorporate into project planning efforts. But, when activities and deliverables are left unplanned and unmeasured, projects may start to sway or flop altogether. This is also the point at which the likelihood of staying on time and on budget becomes improbable.

Measuring the work and deliverables of each project activity in effort – not by time or duration – is essential to measuring project performance and to being able to answer the key question, “Can we make our target delivery dates?”

No PM or QA? What that Costs You

In the ninth Global Project Management Survey, conducted by the Project Management Institute, numbers are improving but organizations are still wasting an average of $97 million for every $1 billion invested due to poor project performance.

This means that nearly 10 cents of every dollar spent on projects is being wasted.

We do not personally know of any other area of business that would be allowed to continue operating at such a loss, or at such a poor rate of return – with most organizations successfully completing a nominal amount of the projects they start.

  • Aside from the dollar amount, poor project performance also costs organizations top talent. With the national unemployment rate hovering at 4.1% and with the IT sector growing at a rapid rate – employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow an additional 13% from 2016 to 2026 – talented IT workers have plenty of other options of places to work when project performance is down or when best practices are sacrificed altogether by an organization.

Dragging projects across the finish line, endlessly working untenable hours and being called upon to perform these heroics incessantly burns even the best people out – and they tend to be the ones to leave first.

  • Additionally, with the threat of companies failing when their projects fail – because of how much money, time and resources they have sunk into them – there is a very real correlation between IT project success and business success. And one cannot survive without the other.

Without a mature project state in place – one that can be duplicated and continuously improved upon over time – other non-IT areas of the business suffer, or the business itself can be put in serious jeopardy.

Nothing about managing IT projects is easy, but by properly allocating time for the key lifecycle bookends – project management and quality assurance – organizations can begin to resurrect actionable timelines and stay on budget.

Darrin Lang

Darrin Lang
Darrin Lang is CEO and co-founder of LABUR LLC in Boston.

Darrin Lang

Joanna Kolis

Joanna Kolis
A process improvement strategist, Joanna Kolis is a strategic advisor for LABUR LLC.

Darrin Lang

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