7 project management mistakes CIOs make

Ravi Sahi
January 23, 2012

CIOs spend much of their time identifying the right strategies for IT implementations, which invariably morph into projects and programs. A company’s ability to implement or execute these efforts, which are often large and quite visible, is what distinguishes success from failure.

CIOs too frequently get off track while attempting to keep their fingers on the pulse of these mission-critical projects. Here are seven common project management mistakes CIOs make and some tips to assist.

1. Failure to connect the dots for project managers
Many CIOs do not communicate the connection of IT projects to the overall business strategy. Furthermore, they forget to articulate the value of an IT project on the company vision.

Tip: Answer these questions: why are we undertaking this initiative? What are the expected changes?

2. Improper change management strategies
CIOs need to recognise that projects are change initiatives. It is not about redesigning the screens in a call centre, for instance, but rather the change in individuals’ daily work habits that will impact the success or failure of a new initiative. IT managers need to understand why something new has been created, especially if the ‘old way’ worked fine.

Tip: Get your project managers excited about change by explaining the greater context and recognise that change takes a bit of time.

3. Lack of time for planning, but insistence on a comprehensive plan
IT executives often demand a time schedule or a budget that is based on project-irrelevant data points. This is the cat-and-mouse game that project leaders and IT executives play, doubling the number because you know ‘they’ will cut any number you give by 30%.

Tip: Allow planning time and create realistic expectations for your manager… and for yourself!

4. Demanding one number for time and cost
The savvy IT executive demands a ‘range’ approach for time and cost. A well-planned project allows for the best and worst case scenarios from a realistic viewpoint. Your plan should reflect the top 10 risks and the associated additional cost for each potential risk. In short, risk management is key for decision-making.

Tip: Ask for an estimate that considers the risks first.

5. Selective memory
While many CIOs have a risk assessment plan, they are often surprised when they have to pay additional costs.

Tip: Follow through on your commitments. If a project leader presents his or her top risk that has a price tag of an addition $1 million, and it occurs, fund it.

6. Trying to stay on top of everything
IT executives have moved up the ranks for a reason. They have technological know-how. But a CIO needs other skills, too. He or she needs to know how to delegate and ask the right questions of the right project and program managers.

Tip: Cultivate your project management talent so you can tap into their knowledge pool as needed.

7. Hope is not a strategy
Project managers tend to assume the best case scenario over reality. Ask the next 10 project managers you run into about their projects. You will find that, aside from some issues here or there, “the team will pull together and get it done”.

Tip: Demand regular updates and an actionable status report that identifies issues and challenges as early as possible.

Author avatar
Ravi Sahi
Ravi Sahi PMP is the regional director of Client Solutions for Asia at ESI International, a subsidiary of Informa, which specialises in helping people around the world improve the way they manage projects, contracts, requirements and vendors through innovative learning. Ravi has consulted and delivered project, program, and portfolio management training at all organisational levels. He has an MBA in finance, holds a Masters in Project Management from The George Washington University, and is a Stanford Certified Project Manager (SCPM).
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