IT Projects: How to remove the fear of failure & reduce your IT costs

IT Projects: How to remove the fear of failure & reduce your IT costs

Chris May, consultant, and David Griffiths, agile developer at Black Pepper Software

Innovation is pivotal to business success, yet fear of failure continues to plague the IT market. With the UK government writing off more than £100m due to failed IT projects in the past financial year, this fear of failure is understandable. However, if companies do not innovate, they are at risk of being left behind by competitors who do. The outcome? A sudden shift from business leader to industry laggard.

The key is adopting the correct approach to managing your IT projects. Below are three elements IT managers must consider before embarking on a development project.

  • Flexibility – Today’s business world is growing increasingly volatile, with market changes often happening at the click of a button. Development teams must therefore ensure IT projects can change direction at short notice, a goal that is only achievable through close and regular collaboration with clients and careful design.

Far too often, managers take an initial brief before spending months, or even years, producing a product without communication. Markets are unpredictable and if business requirements change, the project may be quickly deemed irrelevant, outdated and potentially worthless.

  • Delivering early value – Businesses traditionally wait months or even years for IT projects to be completed. In this scenario, value isn’t added to the business or its customers for large periods of time.

IT projects must mirror the technology industry’s pace of change, deploying a minimum viable project within an agreed time frame to ensure business value is added early on. Our work with Black Country Atelier is a successful example of this – within a week rather than the usual months, we produced software which enables consumers to design their own loom band pendants which can then be printed in a high street store. Working to such a short timescale enabled the company to quickly understand product demand before investing in further development. As Eric Ries explains in ‘The Lean Start-up’, this vastly reduces risk and cost.

  • Responding quickly – Regardless of any precautions taken, things will go wrong during IT projects. IT managers should not be afraid of failure. Leading companies today, such as Etsy and Flickr, have adopted “accepting failure and recovering quickly” as key elements of their innovation processes. Finding out what doesn’t work is a necessary step on the path of exploring new territory and essential to remaining competitive in a fast changing market.

The skill is in learning to fail fast and cheaply. Traditionally, managers choose to reduce the mean time between failure (MTBF), yet doing so can increase response times to unforeseen issues which in turn increases costs. Alternatively, businesses can focus on reducing the mean time to recovery (MTTR), accepting things inevitably do go wrong at times while ensuring quick response times for any faults which arise. This removes the fear of failure and ensures fast recovery, reducing the cost of amending faults once the product is finalised.

IT managers still utilising traditional software development approaches must update their techniques to remain competitive in today’s fast paced markets. By applying modern day lean and agile principles to software development projects, business value is delivered early, issues are resolved quickly and end products are in line with the client’s needs. This adaptive, customer-focused approach removes the fear of failure, reduces costs and ensures businesses remain competitive in a fast changing marketplace.


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