Why data insight projects fail and how to succeed – Part 4
In this 4-part blog series, we look at some of the common reasons data projects fail and the key underlying solutions that can help businesses improve project success rates. Part 1 dealt with outcome misalignment and the problems of a project failing to align with business strategy. Part 2 dealt with estimates and what problems they can cause. Part 3 dealt with project scopes and why they are so important. This time we look at what underpins any successful project, time and resources.
Time and resources – without people, there is no project
As we mentioned in part 3, your estimates will also include estimating the time and resource you’ll need on a data insight project.
Building any project delivery schedule relies on realistic timelines, which can be difficult to produce for projects your team may not have executed before. While elements may be familiar, more and more large projects such as cloud implementations put IT teams on unfamiliar ground, making accurate timelines incredibly hard to estimate (even if everyone is available for your project 100% of the time!).
Reaching out to 3rd parties that specialise in the kind of project you are undertaking can help you set a realistic project time estimate and schedule, helping you better manage your internal stakeholder’s expectations of time to delivery and not feeling burdened by unforeseen delays.
This can be especially useful on Digital Transformation projects where data is a critical point, as specialist 3rd parties can support you on understanding the resource requirements based on your data maturity and current BI tools.
It is important to select the right supplier for your organisation. There are three key areas to validate that the 3rd party are the right fit.
Firstly, a strong technical acumen is important; a common trait amongst 3rd parties will be their ability to deliver through a competent delivery team who are well skilled in the chosen technology.
Secondly is a clear awareness within your industry. Understanding the subtleties of your industry is vital to being able to create and support effective solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all for data, so it is important that you are able to maintain and enhance your reputation by developing outputs which are focused and relevant.
The third, and most important area, is that the arrangement is a partnership. The best projects are those where collaboration is built into the core of the delivery. Each business has unique nuances that mark it out from the competition. Being involved throughout means these nuances are guarded and the context of the project remains relevant and specific to your business. When considering procuring the services of a 3rd party, it is important that you are not dictated to, particularly with complex data projects. On conclusion of a project, you want your staff to feel confident to be self-sufficient in the management of the developed solutions, so it is imperative the project looks at developing staff skills as well as delivering high quality outputs.
Alongside this, it goes without saying, people are the key resource on any project – without people, there is no project. Many IT teams report being overstretched, often working on too many projects at the same time, or on projects with too few resources available to meet deadlines.
The initial scoping process should give the chance for an open discussion about which resource is needed and when on a project, as well as how much of their time each project team member (often with a workload outside of the project) will need to spend on the project on a weekly basis.
Defined roles in projects allow for clear differentiation of responsibilities. The previously accepted approach for data insight projects to be delivered was by those within IT. There is more of a need now than ever before that the driver of data projects is the business users who will utilise the output. Ensuring subject matter experts are available to feed into the requirements phase to contextualise complex data constructs and also to provide their feedback within user acceptance testing to prove the validity and usability of the output is essential.
Underestimate time or manpower on a project and your project might not fail completely, but it’s far more likely to run dramatically past it’s delivery date by weeks, months or in some cases even years. These delays create other bottlenecks around the organisation and can cause a break down in trust between you and stakeholders from not keeping your promises. Avoid this entirely by being realistic with your time estimates and seeking outside insight into requirements where your organisation has a knowledge gap.
Understanding the current state of play with the moving parts in your project helps you understand what resource you need. With this insight, you’ll be able to meet your deadlines by securing the right people for your project at the right time.
Our customers often reach out to us at the beginning of new data projects for aspects such a current data maturity assessment or infrastructure assessment that supports them in structuring their projects and allocating the right resource. Once into a project, our customers know that as a trusted partner, if they need some extra support from us, they can pull from our bank of services at any time to ensure they deliver and meet their data goals.
Throughout this series, we’ve covered outcomes, scope, estimates and resource planning, and it’s clear that when it comes to big IT projects, there are a number of risk factors that can cause a project to fail, run over-time or over-budget.
When we begin to mitigate these risks by taking the appropriate steps at each stage, projects are more successful and other benefits such as improved stakeholder relationships and employee job satisfaction begin to filter through.
Through planning, detail and communication, projects are infinitely more likely to be successful, however this can be easier said than done for busy IT departments who are usually juggling multiple projects in parallel.
This is why CACI’s Business Insight Group partners with customers and can support them at any point of their data journey, from aligning their outcomes through to post implementation training.