IT Managers Want To Know: What Makes IT Teams Fail?

by drjim on September 19, 2013

IT teams can fail in the most spectacular ways

IT teams can fail in the most spectacular ways
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As an IT manager you are hoping you can use your IT manager skills in order to ensure that your team will be successful. That they’ll be able to complete the work assignments that you are given on time, under budget, and at a high quality. That’s a great goal; however, why is it that all too often IT teams fail? It turns out that there are 3 main reasons that an IT team can fail and you had better know what they are if you want to avoid making these mistakes.

Misalignment

One of the most glaring problems that IT managers run into is that their teams are working on the wrong problems. The company’s leaders know that they are facing a set of challenges that they need the IT department to help them solve. However, somehow in the communication of those problems to IT something gets mixed up. Making sure that we’re working on the right project was never a part of our IT manager training.

The end result of this is that you and your team set off working on a project that even if you complete it successfully will not result in any tangible benefit for the company. You are not going to be able to help them find solutions to the real challenges that they are facing.

A common term for this type of disconnect is “being out of alignment”. Everyone realizes that it is a real problem, it’s just that nobody seems to have a good solution for solving it. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to you to find a way to make sure that your team is working on the right projects.

Death Of A Project

If you do any searching online about the failure rate of IT projects, you are going to discover that up to 80% of IT projects end in failure. That is an enormous number. In fact, it’s so high that the rest of the company has started to adopt an attitude that just because you start an IT project does not mean that you are going to be able to deliver what you are promising.

When an IT project fails, the failure hurts the reputation of both you and your IT team. The part of the business that was counting on you creating a solution to their problem is left just a bit poorer for the experience and they still have the problem that they had originally.

As an IT manager you need to be aware that the chances of your next IT project failing are great. This means that you need to keep your eyes open and be looking for the tell-tale signs of a project starting to fail and take action to save the project when you see these.

Communication Failure

As an IT manager, we often ask ourselves what the #1 skill that we need to have is. We can get caught up in the hot topic of the day (cloud computing, big data, etc.) and think that one of our technical skills is what makes us a good manager. However, we’d be wrong. It turns out that our success as an IT manager rests on our ability to communicate clearly.

The ability to communicate what we want to other people is critical for several reasons. As an IT manager, we need to get things done. We need a wide range of people to do what we need them to do when we need them to do it. The only way that this is going to happen is if we are able to make them clearly understand what we want them to do and why it needs to be done. When it comes to IT team building, your communication skills are what is going to make it happen.

Communication is not just restricted to the members of our IT team. We also have to be able to clearly communicate with the outside world that consists of other people in the company and even potentially customers. We’ll need different vocabularies and different ways of both talking and listening in order to get the most out of each of these communication opportunities.

What All Of This Means For You

Being an IT manager is not an easy job. You are trying to get difficult to manage talented people to use cutting edge technology in order to solve real-word business problems. Your success is not guaranteed and in fact if you are not aware of the three biggest pitfalls that you and your team may encounter, you could be headed for disaster.

An IT team exists to do the work that is needed by the rest of the business. If the work that you are doing is not the work that they need to have done, you’ve got a real problem. IT projects are difficult to complete on time and under budget. In fact they often fail to deliver what the company expected and so you’ve got some serious management to do if you want your team’s project to have a chance of succeeding. Finally, forget the technical skills that you need to have – the ability to communicate both inside and outside of your team is going to be what determines your long term success.

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom – it is possible to be a successful IT manager. However, you need to go into this with your eye wide open and realize that it’s all too easy to lead your team down the wrong path. Be aware of the easy ways to go wrong and you’ll be able to do a better job of avoiding them!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What should you do if your IT team’s project starts to look like it is going to fail?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT manager you probably find yourself in a difficult position quite often. You think that you know what you and your team are supposed to be working on; however, all too often different people seem to show up and ask you to work on something completely different. How’s an IT manager supposed to know what to do? It turns out that there is a simple solution to this problem: take a survey.

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