Biting off more than you can chew?
I saw this Harvard Business Review stat that claims one in six IT projects are money pits, going on average 200 percent overbudget and taking 70 percent longer than planned. I wonder what would happen if we could see only nonprofit IT project performance--what would that look like? I suspect not much better, and possibly even worse on the scheduling side, as that's certainly been my experience. It makes me think that nonprofit organizations have a tendency to want to bite off more than they can chew when starting a new technology project, and this adversely affects the project. This may be because the organization doesn't really know what's involved in--for example, setting up a new fundraising database or redesigning their website--or it may be that organizations simply don't allocate staff time for people who aren't "directly involved" on the project.
Regardless of whether an internal IT person or consultant is assigned one of these projects, it's their responsiblity to make it very clear assistance is required from the rest of the organization, both in terms of staff time required and skills required. I really enjoyed this post by David Geilhufe on the NTEN Discuss List (of course, you're an NTEN member, right? Right?!) which talks about a few of these issues.
One of the main responsiblities of the IT staff (or consultant) will be to divide the project into easily digestible chunks. This work entails dividing the project into phases, defining clear business goals, assigning people to the project, and other steps. Often this simply isn't done, or is hurriedly rushed through because "we need that website live next week!" This is not a strategy for success, and then the organization gets into a downward spiral of "we need A, but it's taking too long to get, so we'll just assume B, and move on to the next item: C," which ends with no one being satisfied because what was created was not what was expected.
The attitude that "the technology will save us" seems to somehow prevent many organizations from doing much of this up-front work (planning, defining clear goals, process mapping, assigning people to the project, breaking projects down into pieces) required to have these technology projects be succesful. You wouldn't roll out a new Homeless Prevention Initiative without doing up-front planning, so why would you think IT is any different?
Thoughts from the field? How are projects handled at your org? Are you biting off more than you can chew?