Why do so many IT Projects struggle to complete on time and in budget?

IT Project

Project Management is a key skill and resource for any business. I think we can all agree on that. It’s a massive industry full of very clever people with accreditations, degrees and most using the latest, greatest software to make their difficult jobs a lot more streamlined and efficient.

Then why do so many projects fail or go so far over budget?

Go a little further, beyond focusing on project management in general, IT projects are notoriously difficult to plan, budget, execute and deliver within the expected timeframe.

The numbers behind these claims?

  • Almost 1/3 of IT projects go over budget, according to Forbes
  • 1/5 overspend by an eye-watering 200%
  • Overspending is generally tied in with a schedule overrun, 70% longer on average
  • Only 2.5% of projects were completed totally successfully within the original scope, on-time and under budget, according to a PWC study of over 10,000 IT projects.
  • 17% of failed projects threaten the survival of the business.

But what causes these failures? Is it the software? The goals? The approach? All of the above?

IT Project Manager

“Better software must be the answer?”

Let’s put that to bed straightaway. At Planet IT we are constantly approached by companies claiming to have the latest and greatest project management solutions that we can either use ourselves or re-sell to clients. Certainly, the right software package can make a job easier, but it’s a tool to use, nothing more.

“Should everyone be using SCRUM or AGILE techniques?”

Once again, these methods and techniques can help, but are like the software, not going to save your project.

“Unrealistic objectives, lack of set goals or milestones?”

Now you’re thinking along the right lines! It’s not necessarily the poor objectives, missing goals or even scope creep – it’s more the people that set the objectives and allow variance from the plan that’s the problem!

IT Project Management

That’s right, projects struggle to succeed because of the people!

All of the software, tools and tricks are no substitute to a project delivered with proper processes, procedures, monitoring and communication, with a professional approach by an expert in that field.

You wouldn’t ask the best logistics PM to plan and execute an IT Project, just like you wouldn’t ask an IT PM to execute a skyscraper construction plan.

The problem isn’t that it’s an IT project. Complicated technology does not cause the shortfalls, it can be that the wrong people are operating and interacting with tech they cannot handle, poor SoW, Lack of information divulged by the internal project sponsor, senior people within the business changing the scope without understanding the process and the knock on affects, outside factors could even be business requirements change within the project delivery. It could be so many factors and so many reasons why a project can be delayed, changed, late or even fail. It all comes down to proven processes within the Project Management of each stage of the project and ensuring that the whole team fully understands and follows it.

Learning in Practice

Our IT project managers, as well as the top PM’s at other big IT companies, have years of experience behind them. They have delivered countless large and complex tasks. They have become proficient on the job, spending time in the trenches building that competence through actually doing it! They are recruited and nurtured due to their previous successful project experience, their leadership abilities, their communication skills, their ability to work in teams and the basic skills and competencies necessary to complete technology projects successfully.

Evolution

Technology is constantly evolving. We hear that all the time. However, so too is the IT project manager. They grow with the latest tech, software, practices and executions. We regularly see (but rarely ask) our PM’s to complete training in their spare time. They live and breathe their work and thrive on being the best at delivering structured solutions to complex dilemmas.

At Planet IT, we’re very lucky that we are high level partners with the major technology vendors. It means we have access to new training as soon as it’s available. And to the experts who flourish on being the best… well, they feed on the knowledge that they are at the top of their industry and strive to prove it though delivering time and time again.

Project Management

Communicate Clearly and in Time

Pair that technical expertise to the ability to communicate effectively and you’re looking at a very good IT Project Manager.

Some people are genius at what they do. However, sometimes they struggle to get a point across. IT experts often have a bad reputation for talking too technical to people not as technical as they are. It’s a reputation that is unfortunately earned for a reason. Points need to be shared business wide. There are going to be stakeholders that don’t have the expertise of others, but still need to understand how all cogs work together.

Building the right plan, with clear milestones and deliverables is essential. Having just that yet not sharing it succinctly is criminal. As is not sharing updates, wins and any hic-cups that might arise – because they often do, out of anyone’s control.

Unforeseen problems do occur throughout almost all projects, communicating in a timely fashion to the project sponsor, building in captures and following the process when something doesn’t quite go to plan. Change of scope is never good to hear however it’s better to communicate at the source and when the issue occurs rather than sitting on the problem, this helps drive a new albeit slightly different path for the Scope of Work at the earliest point rather than waiting for further problems or longer delays.

The Planet Difference

At Planet IT, we believe in the Planet difference: our experts’ abilities, determination and commitment to the project. They never leave a project unfinished and to always resolve the unexpected, wherever it occurs.

Good PM’s are here to lead the way, ensuring due process is followed and goals are achieved on budget, on time and as expected.

How do we do this?

Strategy – Initial audits, research, and advice
Design – Clear solution designs against business case
Transition – Project approval through to project start and procurement
Operation –Implementation and monitoring
Improvement –Change management and client review

If you’d like to take a closer look at our process, we’re happy to offer a free walk through of our proven project formula for those companies looking at IT changes and might want a professional help – just send me an email to arrange – nick.johns@planet-it.net

Similarly, if you’d like to read more about our work, check our our Project Management page or download our Skills Matrix:

PLANET IT SKILLS MATRIX

Project Management Company

Conclusion

Certainly, IT projects are difficult. There are lots of things that can be pointed out as the cause of failure:

  • Clear project process
  • Poorly defined scope
  • No use of formal methods & strategies
  • Lack of communication
  • No defined goals & milestones
  • Failure to track progress
  • Quick and Responsive to necessary changes
  • Ineffective leadership
  • Poor technology
  • Lack of detail
  • Cultural differences

… but what do all of these have in common? The people that deliver the project.

Start there. Get the right, qualified, experienced and proven people to run a project.

Do it right, the first time!

Planet IT scoop Sophos UK Mid-market partner of the year for second year running

Planet IT has won the UK Mid-Market Sophos Partner of the Year Award, again.

The Milton Park, Oxford, based IT services company retained its crown at the Sophos Partner Conference in Manchester. The award recognises Planet IT’s client delivery, advisory service, expertise and commitment to offering customers next-generation network and endpoint protection.

The annual conference celebrates the successes of Sophos partners throughout the UK. Sophos, which has its HQ in Abingdon, Oxford, is a world leading cyber-security software company.

Sean Smith, director at Planet IT said: “Planet IT provides a best-in-class service to our clients and we ensure we always offer the most up to date and relevant IT consultancy advice. This award is testament to the dedication and delivery of our fantastic team, and we are very proud to a long-standing Sophos partner. Our partnership with Sophos enables us to provide our clients with the very best support and products on the market.”

Gavin Jones, director at Planet IT said: “To have won UK Mid-Market Sophos Partner of the Year for the second year in a row is a great achievement. We are proud to have worked closely with Sophos for more than a decade and achieved Platinum Partner status. A key part of our success has been our team and technical engineers undergoing Sophos training to gain an in-depth knowledge of the products and become fully accredited. It has enabled us to provide expert advice to our clients daily.”

At the 2019 Discover conference members of the Sophos executive leadership team delivered keynote sessions on Sophos strategy, its partner commitments and the broader future of the IT security industry in front of more than 150 attendees.

Overcoming Challenges with Sir Ranulph Fiennes & Planet IT

Planet IT is hosting a prestigious business event with world famous British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

‘Overcoming Challenges with Sir Ranulph Fiennes & Planet IT’ will take place at the Courtyard by Marriott at Milton Gate next month.

Sir Ranulph will treat guests to a talk on some of the adventures he has faced and challenges he has overcome.

Best known for crossing both the Arctic and Antarctic and conquering the North and South Poles he also completed the gruelling Marathon des Sables at the age of 71.

Planet IT have also teamed up with Dell EMC and will talk about the challenging IT threat landscape for business.

Gavin Jones, Planet IT director said: “We wanted to host an event on Milton Park to celebrate Planet IT moving onto park and are looking forward to hearing from such an inspirational person and keynote speaker.”

Sean Smith, Planet IT director said: “By combining Sir Ranulph’s experience of over-coming challenges as an adventurer with how we solve IT challenges in business we believe the event will be fascinating and deliver real value to our guests.”

Planet IT provides full outsourced IT support and supply services to organisations in Oxfordshire, surrounding counties and London.

The team at Planet IT are experts in IT, including planning, systems and networking, managed services provision, cyber security, cloud solutions, and sourcing hardware and software.

The event takes place on Thursday May 16th and spaces can be requested via Eventbrite here: https://bit.ly/2GdsaUv

Ensure you have email continuity during a Microsoft Office 365 outage

The recent issues with Microsoft Office 365 served as a timely reminder that no system, no matter how robust, is susceptible to failures and downtime.

In this case Microsoft suffered a networking issues in one of its data centres which in turn caused some users to suffer restricted or no access to the platform. This scaled from no access to e-mail through to complete access denial while Microsoft worked to restore the services.

This highlighted for many organisations how critical these systems have become to every day functionality and how a small amount of downtime can have catastrophic effect of the overall function of the business, operationally and financially.

With more and more organisations making the move across to Office 365 it is now critical that we look at how best to enable an organisation to protect itself from such downtime windows and how operational continuity can be maintained.

Office 365 is built on a robust and diverse data centre and DR arrangement, but at the core of it the technology is open to failure, just like any other platform. Because of this companies like Mimecast, Sophos Central and Barracuda have introduced companion cloud applications which integrate with Office 365 to provide a level of protection that cannot be offered by a single vendor solution.

In terms of e-mail protection, the above-mentioned platforms use a system of continuity which allows mail to continue following in and out and staff to continue operating as normal while Office 365 is out of action. This would prevent any risk to the financial and operational stability of the organisation. We saw this come into its own during the downtime last week, while some of our Microsoft 365 customers who choose not to purchase these platforms where offline when Microsoft suffered the outage, the customers who had the platforms continued to work.

Can your organisation risk the impact of downtime that a failure on the Microsoft Office 365 platform would cause? If not give one of our Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery specialists a call today.

The importance of IT budgeting in education

In recent years budgets in education have been getting tighter and more strained, leading to serious challenges for IT managers in the sector.

The issue has impacted on most education establishments, from primary through to higher education, with some suffering budget cuts by as much as 80% and capital investment being frozen. I have experienced this process first hand through my time as an IT manager in the education sector and am alert to the dangers. By making the right decisions in the beginning and planning carefully future costs can be managed and minimised effectively.

For many education establishments Information Technology, especially infrastructure feels like a never-ending pit they throw money into, with IT managers and IT staff constantly demanding additional funding to support the infrastructure they have or to strive to improve it. As a senior manager, senior leader, head teacher, finance director or bursar it is hard to comprehend why IT is so expensive and why equipment needs replacing so frequently.

 

Education is not unique in these challenges but in many other organisations IT is seen as the most critical component of the business after the staff and without it many business know they would simply not exist. Whereas, in education other priorities take precedence not least the education of the students. However, education inherently faces a challenge that many businesses don’t, with the outside world evolving and technology changing the way we operate across the board education establishments must adapt and evolve to include these technologies into teaching and learning, where any other business can wait for a strong business need to change.

This is compounded by the constant battle that is the solution is never finished, you could upgrade all your servers tomorrow to meet your needs of today, but as soon as this is complete you are going to stretch the resources you have and further down the line be forced to invest again to update your purchase for your new challenges. We see many educational establishments doing this on a bi-yearly basis, only looking at the next 12 months and the demands on the system now, rather than creating a robust five-year plan. In most cases this is due to budgetary pressures. An investment of £10,000 is easier to get signed off than an investment of £30,000 based on it lasting 5 years. But this may result in having to spend £10,000 every year for four years and when you reach year five you will likely need to start again.

 

On their other hand there are an increasing number of educational establishments which have not invested for many years. We are seeing organisations approach us who have not invested in infrastructure for 10 years and are now feeling major pains; as the problems with the slow outdated system they have not only affects the business’s operations but impacts on the educational experience and overall teaching and learning. Not investing in your infrastructure on an annual basis will see you hit with a much larger bill when you must invest, be that due to incompatibility, additional consultancy costs or the sheer volume of work that is required to bring your organisation up to date.

 

The opposite side of the coin to the lack of investment is an organisation which has just completed an upgrade in the last 12 months and as such has now removed capital spending on IT for 5 years. This can result in just the same effects as not investing at all, as the lack of committed funding will result in shocks to the business when in year 5 you need to invest heavily to refresh your infrastructure and don’t have the capital or the will in your senior management to spend on it, because you haven’t done so for the previous years.

Two other areas I have seen have a drastic impact on an organisations ability to budget properly is where decisions are made to ‘cut corners’ on software licensing and hardware purchasing. This can be as simple as removing upgrade and support from your software or hardware purchase. Many software vendors as of 2018 have started including current release only support meaning if your product is out of date and needs updating you won’t be able to get ad-hoc support from them. If you have opted to not purchase software updates with your product you can suddenly find yourself facing a ‘buy back’ cost where a vendor will charge you anywhere up to 100% of the cost of the upgrades for the time you choose not to purchase them. This can mean to resolve simple issues you could end up being fronted with a c£1,000 bill just to pay for software upgrades you chose not to take. The same risk applies to hardware, for organisations that cut corners by purchasing refurbished, end of life or reconditioned hardware to achieve an initial saving face a large outlay midway through the products life as it fails, falls out of support or is not up to the task you require of it.

 

With all of the above in mind there are some simple solutions from my experience I can offer to help you not only forecast the costs of your IT to ensure you can budget to maintain it but to also make smart savings where at all possible.

 

Solutions:

Road Map

Have a clearly defined IT plan. If you take the time to look at all your systems, including end of life dates and usage, alongside your organisation’s growth and development plans, you can forecast an estimate of when each system will need upgrading and replacing and budget effectively. At Planet IT we will complete this for all our managed service customers and can work with you to help build the road-map. With our teams’ years of experience will can advise on the right products, current trends and genuine costs to ensure you make the right investments.

Solutions

One area educational establishments can save on their IT budgets is by making smart investments. Looking at hardware vendors, software vendors and technology trends to pick a solution with is not only future proof but will see the right solution placed into your infrastructure. We can support you with this, we can bring vendors to you, who will pitch their solutions and then allow you to make the right choice.

Fixed Costs

By assessing your current environment, you can make a sensible budget to cover the software or hardware you know you must maintain. This becomes critical when looking at licensing for software such as Microsoft or Adobe who offer annual commitments which do increase year on year, if you’re not careful you can under budget for these changes and thus end the year with an IT budget deficit before any other costs have been incurred.

Investment

The most critical aspect of IT investment and budget management in education is looking to lock in capital investment for IT every year. If you can dedicate a sizeable amount of your capital spend to IT, then you will never be left in a situation where a system needs replacing and you don’t have the cash. In many situations after doing this for 3-5 years you will start to see a decrease in the capital required by the IT budget as the constant investment will keep IT systems healthy and supporting your needs.

Do you need some more advice? Would you like to speak to one of our education specialists who can assist your establishment in making smart IT investments and maximising your IT budget? Then call us today on 01235 433 900.

James Dell works as Planet IT’s lead IT advisor to educational organisations. He previously worked in IT in education for 10 years for 4 different organisations, as a dedicated safe guarding lead and IT Manager.

How to improve Office 365 security on your mobile phone

Since launching in 2011 Microsoft Office 365 has become the pinnacle of cloud services. At Planet IT we are seeing 70% of Microsoft licence renewals moving to Office 365 and nearly all new customers entering straight onto the platform. The scalability of the platform provides flexibility and diversity in the ways it enables you and your business workforce to operate. But this comes at a cost: security.

Users now allow data to exist on devices we would never have previously considered allowing it to reside on, prior to the mass shifts towards a more dynamic workforce. The biggest and every growing IT security risk area is e-mail. Thanks to the ease of connectivity that Office 365 provides people are connecting multiple devices, which invariably run on different software platforms, accessing e-mail via different applications. They all feature different security settings, known vulnerabilities and inherent risks and the more devices used the greater the risk.

For example, users using either iOS or Android devices and the built-in mail client, can download to their device all the data that is held on the corporate system. From a compliance point of view this is a nightmare. If, say, the HR Manager of a company had synced all their e-mail history to their phone and they leave it on a train, potentially all the e-mails could be hacked. Even if the data is not taken, they would still have ‘lost’ the data and must report it to the ICO under the requirements of GDPR. At this point they would have lost complete control of the data on the device.

With different versions of Android comes different security levels and authentication methods, this again begins to open the void in security measures as you look from device to device. Without any form of uniformity across platforms, devices and applications your base risk level increases massively and positions your business is a risky position.

Our recommendation to all our Office 365 customers and anyone who is using the platform is make the move as an organisation to using Microsoft Outlook Mobile application. It can be downloaded from the App Store in iOS or the Play Store on Android. The application is specially designed to protect you and your data with features built in to the system like; secondary authentication, containerisation and encryption.

These features put a natural break between the native device and your data, providing the extra layer of protection your data needs. The application is specifically designed with protecting e-mail on mobile devices in mind, removing the risks and offering a familiar interface for all of us who use Microsoft Outlook or Office 365 Outlook web app daily. The application mirrors nearly all the other features you see in Outlook on your desktop really enabling it to act as a productivity tool rather than being another obstacle to efficient working.

Not on Office 365 or interested in finding out more? Call Planet IT today and speak to one of our Microsoft Office 365 experts who can help guide you.

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