by Jim Vaughan

Project Managers Need to Engage IT At the Right Time

May 21, 2010
IT Leadership

Getting IT involved too early in the development process could be a mistake.

Last week I attended a seminar on project predictability which was hosted by Geneca. The topic drew me in as I have seen so many projects go astray and wondered what I could learn from this presentation.  The key point that I got from this presentation was how to align business requirements to project objectives.

The speaker loosely defined predictability as “no surprises.”

Making this alignment has much to do with the people that are assigned to create the project objectives. It was noted that problems with requirements management are rarely with the IT organization and process. This caught me by surprise at first because I usually thought of IT, myself included, as the source of the problem. So let’s step back and examine this.

Given a sound set of requirements, IT organizations can usually do a good job in meeting those requirements. The problem comes in when the requirements are fuzzy. In these cases assumptions are made and the IT group typically over engineers the project just because it is fun to do. (Ah yes, I so enjoy taking creative design!) So the real problem here lies in getting the right requirements.

To get to the right requirements you need the right people to define those requirements. These are not the IT people. If we let the IT people define the requirements we will likely get into trouble. That is why people will blame IT for failed projects. The correct people to define the requirements are the business people and end users. In fact, IT people should be kept away from the process. IT people have a tendency to start designing a product before it is fully fleshed out. IT people have a tendency to think of why something cannot be done rather than how it can be done. Therefore the requirements must be well designed before IT starts any work. Let me repeat: the requirements must be WELL designed. This is the real key. The IT organization should push back and require a well defined set of requirements before starting work.

Given a solid set of requirements IT people can be very creative to meet those requirements. They will determine how to get things done and overcome most obstacles. This is what IT people are really good at.

Therefore we should allow IT to do what they are good at and allow them to succeed. Let the right people design the requirements and leave the design to IT.