Tips for steering clear of defeat

Tips for steering clear of defeat

Alisoun Moore

With 13 years' experience overseeing government IT projects, Alisoun Moore, CIO of Montgomery County, Md., has seen her share of successes, as well as projects that crash and burn. Moore, the former CIO of Maryland, outlines six ways to prevent IT project meltdown.

  • Get the specs early and get them right.

    One of the first signs of trouble is when a project goes south at the specification-generation level. 'When people don't know what they don't know at this level'that's what really leads to disaster,' Moore said.

  • Expect 'scope creep.'

    There's always scope creep, so plan for it, Moore said. Build into your cost and time estimates flexibility for change, about 15 percent to 20 percent. Support from top-down leadership is important, too.

  • Get a contractor whose core competency is in the technology needed for that project.

    In other words, don't have a company renowned for software development work on your systems integration project, Moore said.

  • Choose the program manager carefully.

    It takes a lot more than just a knack for PCs to run a $65 million IT project, Moore said. It requires critical thinking skills, leadership and management skills. 'People with computer skills but no management skills should be technicians, not project managers.' An IT project manager has to have good judgment, maturity and objectivity, she said.

  • Keep an eye on operations after the procurement is signed.

    Often, officials put all their efforts into a project preprocurement. Then, once the ink on the contract is dry, they turn it all over to the operations group. 'But that's when all the [contractual] issues come up,' Moore said. 'Too often, the government is abdicating its stewardship of IT projects. Constant vigilance is the key to preventing a system from going off track.' Moore recommends using Gantt charts and other metrics to monitor the project. 'If a project begins to miss key milestones, it's time to evaluate why,' she said.

  • Do your homework.

    Objectively assess whether your organization can handle the project. If it cannot, outsource, Moore said. 'This is not a time for self-delusion,' she said. 'These systems are incredibly complex, and you must know what you are doing.'
  • About the Author

    Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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