The successful delivery of IT projects remains a huge and complicated challenge, and IT departments and suppliers often struggle or fail to deliver. While one in three IT projects is classed as successful, one in six takes over three times as much money and time as originally estimated and one in 20 will cost so much it may even threaten a business’ survival.
An effective project assurance regime, engaged at the outset of an IT project rather than when things begin to go wrong, provides a clear and unbiased picture of the project’s trajectory and can be critical in improving the likelihood of success. By identifying potential issues and addressing them before they happen, assurance significantly cuts costs.
Project audits look backwards after the event and only deliver value if the lessons learned are applied in the future. Delivery assurance, however, identifies potential issues with technology, suppliers and their contracts before they happen. Assurance also tests the project’s costs and benefits and assesses the organisation's readiness.
For example, during the early assurance of a substantial IT project for a client in the airline industry, PA identified that the project planning was far too optimistic. We discovered major concerns about communications across the programme team as well as inadequate risk management that was putting the entire programme at risk.
The real outcome of delivery assurance is a successful IT project and practical steps are needed to achieve this. The first step involves identifying and diagnosing the key issues. For example, PA’s assurance experts identified that a client’s project to define its customer-communications data would not be completed for when it was needed. As a practical solution, we therefore organised a workshop for the client and its supplier so they could agree how to resolve this problem within the timescale.
During a review of software-delivery processes for an organisation in the financial services industry, PA’s assurance experts discovered that, while its highest-priority IT projects were being delivered successfully, there were significant issues in the delivery of its smaller IT projects that required one or two months’ work. PA’s analysis demonstrated that the root of the problem was the company’s approach to resourcing. By immediately modifying the resourcing strategy, the success rate for the smaller IT projects was improved.
Against an IT project failure rate of over 20 per cent, the typical assurance cost of under five per cent of overall spend represents an excellent investment. A £300,000 assurance and delivery assignment, for example, has the potential to save an estimated six months’ work on a £30 million It programme, representing a one per cent investment that saves 10 per cent of the total cost.