A Publication of WTVP

Over the course of 2004, we've covered many critical factors of successful projects, including project management discipline, the role of the executive sponsor, identifying key business drivers, and best practices. However, some IT projects are still failing. So, if we've focused on some of the above, why are projects still not being implemented?

The secret of success is your company's ability to accept change. Not only accept but embrace change and take what's sometimes a leap of faith. Many of the failed projects happen when end users are resistant to the new process and there's no penalty to go back to business as usual. We had one client tell us recently that the same project with different technology failed five times in a row, and they went back to old ways of doing business.

Change is constant. Your customers are doing it and likely so are all of your competitors. How do you help your firm accept it? Recently, we've really come to understand the concept of the "Burning Platform." The term was coined years ago when an oil platform exploded and caught fire. One of the riggers stood on a 150-foot platform with flames all around and had a critical choice; either stay on the platform and face certain death or jump into the cold water and have a chance of surviving. Luckily, he survived, being rescued soon after jumping in the water.

How does this apply to business? Very simply, the Burning Platform is when the risk of not changing is greater than the risk of change. You have to create a compelling reason for change. To create a compelling reason to change, ask your management team two questions: why is this critically important to our organization, and how will this make our jobs easier and more productive? If the end users understand why the firm is changing and why it's good for them personally, they'll make every effort not to fall back into old habits.

If your staff can answer those two questions, you'll likely have the cultural buy in and commitment to make any project happen. I really liked the way this executive of the five failed projects handled things. His comment to his staff was, "We have a Burning Platform. This project affects our customer's quality and our profitability. Not doing the project would be an organizational injustice." Strong words from a strong leader.

We try to help find and change the Burning Platform to ensure success. The Burning Platform can also come from your customers or governmental regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley. Wal-Mart is a great example; if they tell you they want EDI transactions daily, they mean it, and you'll change your processes. If your firm fails to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, your executives could face severe punishment from regulators. Burning Platforms, indeed. IBI