You’ve heard someone say, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” it’s never been truer than in computer projects.

During quite 20 years within the IT industry, I’ve seen quite a couple of projects over budget and under delivering. For 90% or more of those projects, there have been too many cooks. As a consultant that has tried to figure during a kitchen with several others, I can testify that it’s frustrating to be one among the cooks.

In one project, we were providing a link between a modified (by another consultant) POS (point of sale) and a few manufacturing equipment. We asked for sample files from the POS vendor, and wrote the code to reformat them within the proper format for the manufacturing equipment. We tested extensively. Everything worked. Until we went live and therefore the POS consultant mentioned that he had changed the format of the files. So we started rewriting again. Until the POS consultant mentioned that he had some more issues come up and he’d reformatted the files again. I know, most of the people reading this may say, “Why would you continue performing on a project like that?” Answer: we didn’t. After the second change, we recommended that the POS consultant finish his project, and supply a final form file. The POS consultant never finished. Project canceled.

So that makes for this IT project rule: Have one project leader that understands the core technologies, and provides this person control over all the choices within the project. How does one select the lead? First of all, it must be someone capable of understanding the complexities of the varied systems that are involved. within the project i discussed , the simplest choice for project leader would are someone who understood the goals (and the technology limits) of the POS, the manufacturing equipment interface, and therefore the accounting and inventory system (which was the last word goal of the integration). Without all of those pieces on the table, it might be virtually impossible to gather all the info needed at each step. Since the last word data source was the POS system, the POS consultant who was modifying the POS was a logical choice. during this case, however, the POS consultant did not have a full grip on the accounting and inventory applications. Perhaps the project needed another lead; perhaps the client should have chosen us. during this case, the POS consultant was a private friend of the business owner.

Second, the lead must have some communication skills and project management skills. As projects increase in complexity, no single person are going to be ready to grasp the small print of all the project components. The lead needs the communication skills to spot the knowledge needed, and to communication with the technical personnel actually producing the outcomes. Since some technical people will need help communicating, the lead should be ready to prolong the knowledge and recognize when all the knowledge is on the table.

Finally, the lead should have an honest grip on the economics of the project. i do not just mean the project budget here. I mean the business benefits that a successful project is meant to deliver. This understanding is completely necessary for creating tradeoff decisions as they’re required by the project. Reduce the amount of head cooks per project, and use these guidelines to pick the top cook, and you will have more success in IT projects!

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