How to mitigate the risks of failure of large government IT projects

A 250 word challenge…

Identify the risks to mitigate: Risk mitigation can only be performed on acknowledged risks. There is no mitigation if the risk itself has been overlooked. I recommend formal risk analysis techniques, multidisciplinary involvement and regular review and challenge, ideally from external/independent sources.

Use the right methodology at the right lifecycle stage: adhere to Agile principles, focus on non-functional requirements, ensure there is a shippable product at the end of each defined period and a clear view of the definition of Minimum Viable Product.

Transition State Planning: Aim for the target state by delivering business value through realistic transition states. Recognise that ‘target state’ is organic.

Beware the Ministerial Commitment: we must all deal with the realities of hard deadlines, but the ‘ministerial commitment’ in Public Sector delivery often sets out unachievable deadlines put in place for political reasons (mid-term statement etc.). Avoid a ‘fudge’ or technical kludge which is difficult to refactor.

Beware the optimist: large IT projects should be expected to fail. Instrument them with realistic performance measures. Build incremental performance improvements into the DNA of delivery.

Challenge the Norm: Apply disruptive thinking and challenge received wisdom.

Disappoint early: fail fast, over-communicate, be open, present management with timely options.