Project Success and Failure and The New CIO

The New CIO is a weekly article about the challenges facing today’s CIO as well as what can be done to prepare for future challenges.

The CIO's role in Project Success and/or FailureEarlier this week, I listened to an interesting webinar hosted by Michael Krigsman and led by Chris Curran.  The topic of the webinar was the CIO’s role in success or failure of IT projects. Great webinar with some excellent folks. Both Michael and Chris provided after-action blog posts about webinar…you can jump over and read them at:

Chris has a few great points on his post (did you read it? Please do).  Basically, he asks whether the CIO’s role is one of Influence or Control.

Great question…because it gets to the heart of the issues we see today in organizations & how The New CIO can influence the organizations to succeed (or fail) in the projects that are undertaken.

Command & Control – The Old Model

IT groups (and organizations) have historically been run in the command and control mentality with the CIO being the one that commanded IT and taking orders from the CFO, COO or CEO.

This worked well in the old days of legacy systems,  centralized application & centralized IT.  Those days are leaving quickly with users quickly adopting web applications to get their jobs done quicker.

The New CIO – Influence First

As Chris suggests,  the CIO’s role in the future will be that of influencer in large organizations and influencer and controller in medium and small organizations.

I believe The New CIO will have to be an influencer first and foremost. The New CIO will need to influence both upward (to the CEO), sideways (CFO, COO,CMO, etc) and downward to their teams.  She’ll have to find ways to build consensus on the “right strategy” while keeping an eye on how to implement that strategy and continuously building the best the she can.

The New CIO & Projects – Influencing Success

There are a lot of things you can do to improve project success, but the most important method to improve things are often the most overlooked. Those overlooked items can be addressed via Influence…either by influence others in the leadership team, influencing the organization’s project selection or influencing the ability to deliver.

Here’s a few examples of what The New CIO can do to influence project outcomes:

  • Influence others within the organization – This helps ensure that the projects undertaken by the organization fit the organizational strategy as well as the technology strategy for the company.
  • Build relationships with the other CxO’s & VP’s – CIO’s have been notorious for not have good networking and relationship building skills.  Work on that. The better you understand your peers, the better you can understand what their needs will be.
  • Clearly communicate what success /failure means – Does your team / organization understand what a successful project looks like?  Do you have people who think that a successful project means one with zero problems?   You need to let the organization know what success looks like.
  • Build your project management team – Project Manager’s are a dime a dozen.  Certified Project Manager’s are too.  But GREAT project managers are hard to find.  Go find one, hire them, pay them well, give them the ability to lead your project team(s) and watch out.  BTW – Project Management Certification does NOT equal good project manager.
  • Build your project delivery team – How many times has a project slipped because of manpower?  If you have the ability, dedicate some of your staff to be project delivery staff…take them away from the busy work that most IT folks find themselves buried in.
  • Improve your relationship(s) with your vendor(s) – You need your vendors. You need them to make money and you need them to be happy.  Don’t treat them like second class citizens.  Your vendors can make or break your project.
  • Improve the lives of your contractors – Do you use contractors for most of your projects?  Then you need to see above.  You need your contractors to be happy too.
  • Stay Involved – A CIO that doesn’t say involved in projects is setting themselves up for failure.  Staying involved doesn’t mean you need micromanage or be in every project meeting, you The New CIO needs to stay close to the projects to be sure to see any problems that might pop up.

There are other things (feel free to share your thoughts in the comments) but as you can see, project success / failure hinges on the soft skills…those pesky people skills.

On that topic – People Skills + Analytical Skills

While analytics and metrics (project schedules, % complete, etc) are necessary, you need to be able to talk about your projects with your team & with the organization.  Engage in discussion early and often to see what’s happening in the project(s) and what can be done to address any issues.

Don’t wait for someone to bring you a problem…talk to folks and find the problems before they come up.  Have meaningful conversations about the project(s) and even take time to debate the issues to find solutions.  Add this rhetorical skill set to your project team’s skills, and you’ll see an increase in the success rate of your projects.

The New CIO – Project Manager in disguise?

Kind of. Perhaps project manager is the wrong term but you will need to be a Project Leader.  On top of the other items on the plate of The New CIO, you’ll need to do everything in your power to ensure project success.

Help the organization pick the right projects, make sure you can implement those projects by building a great delivery team and stay involved in the projects as much as you can (do not micromange…just stay involved).

Any other suggestions for The New CIO to take help influence projects along the road to success?

Join me next week for another The New CIO article.

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  • http://twitter.com/nyike Isaac Sacolick

    Great post. I added it to Business Exchange's CIO topic http://bx.businessweek.com/chief-information-of… .

    CIO's have to be great portfolio managers, build great teams, and structure/time projects that lead to strategic business value.

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Thanks Isaac! I appreciate you adding it to the BX.

    You are correct. CIO's need to have a wide range of skills.

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  • http://twitter.com/consultski Jeff SKI Kinsey

    Eric, good stuff as always. But you missed the “sweet spot” as we say: no reference to results. Talking about success without talking about a focus on throughput and producing measurable results is not enough. IMNSHO. –ski

  • dave guerra

    Spot on, Eric. This is the new frontier.

    People skills + Analytical Skills = Optimization

    I have been excited to stumble across Agile Project Methods – this approach to Team Culture (Self-Organization) and Servant Leadership is the right stuff for any team.

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Thanks Dave. Big fan here of the Servant Leadership method. Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Hi Ski –

    Sorry about the link issues earlier…not sure what happened. Somehow the Disqus system gave you a link to an old title/link to this post.

    Anyhooo – While I agree with you that results matter, my intention with this post post was really to talk about what a person can do to get a team / organization started along the path toward success…not how to measure (or whether measuring) success. That's a topic for another article :)

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  • http://www.fastforwardblog.com/?author_name=pthornton rotkapchen

    If the CIO isn't doing it, someone else should be. Every project needs a strategy — it's the storyboard that drives production for the movie industry — the artifacts, and stories that keep everyone on the same page (including changing pages, as needed) [Pull your copy of "Finding Nemo" and watch the 'making of' piece]

    Effectively, you need the artifacts of “design thinking” which ideally should have happened early on. But where it hasn't happened, make it happen.

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  • http://www.pmpathway.com/ Project Management

    project success based on some variation of the Triple Constraint for many years as well, some placing more emphasis or value on one of the legs or some combination of legs. On the whole, organizations have no standard measure in place for determining project success so generalizations are problematic.

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