It never ceases to amaze me that at this stage in the information revolution, we continue to have so many failed IT projects. According to CIO magazine, 50% of all IT projects projects are still ending in failure. The sad thing is that most of them are doomed from the start.
When I first started out creating content (or writing, as we called it back in those days), I worked with a wonderful consultant who taught classes in project management. The first steps were gathering requirements and writing detailed specifications. While it sounds elementary, to this day I see many projects where the solution is chosen first—often for reasons of internal politics or to jump on a technology fad. Almost no brain power is put into defining the business problem that needs to be solved, thinking through the project’s objectives, and putting in the necessary business analysis to write specifications.
Once the project gets rolling down the tracks and sunk costs begin to mount up, it requires a rare act of leadership to bring it to a halt, even as the team begins to realize the inevitability of a terrible crash. Instead, panic sets in, and more mistakes compound the failure.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I was fortunate enough to be taught some Boy Scout survival skills by another great mentor. If you’re hiking in the wilderness, and you realize you are lost, the first rule is to do what it takes to keep from making another mistake. Don’t run along the trail looking for the way out; at this point, you have no idea where you are. Stop throwing time, money, and resources at the problem.
Instead, sit down. Stop, right where you are. Then, use your own good sense to think it through. What streams and trails did you cross before you became lost? Were there landmarks? Can you retrace some of your steps? Perhaps most important of all—can you be a big enough person to admit that you’re lost?