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

How to Mitigate the Risks of Failure of Large IT projects – in 250 words.

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.

By Steve Nimmons

Steve is a Certified European Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Royal Society of Arts, Linnean Society and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He is an Electric Circle Patron of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a Liveryman and Freeman of London and serves on numerous industry panels. He is a member of Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute and the Chartered Institute of Journalists.