To weather the current economic maelstrom, enterprises not only are reducing head count but also are cutting back on ambitious or long-term projects in IT. Knowing how best to keep your IT project in the pipeline could mean taking a cue from those best versed in achieving project approval: outside consultants.
"Without a doubt, companies are cutting back significantly this year," notes John Gardner, CEO of Integrative Logic, a data-driven marketing group that helps its clients build customer loyalty. "They're getting pressure to optimize every dollar to either stop the bleeding or start the recovery. From our perspective, the key is showing them at the finest level possible that continuing with our initiatives will not cut their costs but help generate revenue."
[ For more tips on surviving the downturn, see "IT survivor: 7 tips for career growth in tight times" and "20 more IT mistakes to avoid." ]
What's true for consultants such as Integrative Logic is equally true for IT managers looking to kick-start an internal project or to keep the project funding flowing. Those who are best at proving the value of their projects will win. And when it comes to uncertain times, keeping your project off the chopping block can end up saving your skin -- and even enhance your career. Here are six ways to do it.
IT project survival tip No. 1: Work the numbers
To paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and ROI calculations for IT projects.
To be sure, no company will pour money into IT without a strong case that the business will get something in return. For you, however, the issue will be to choose the right metrics and present them well. After all, calculating true return on investment goes beyond demonstrating cost reduction or bottom-line enhancement. Worse, top brass are no longer as likely to let simplistic metrics pull the wool over their eyes.
"As we move deeper into belt-tightening, we are seeing more and more ROI calculations being dismissed," says Esteban Kolsky, vice president of eVergence, a strategic consulting and managed services firm. "Most ROI calculations from vendors are flawed toward magical and large returns, and most calculations from users are too simplistic and unreliable. Bottom line: CEOs and CFOs don't believe them that much anymore."
Case studies that show how other organizations implemented similar projects and achieved positive results may have more credibility with management teams than straight ROI projections, says Kolsky.
Though numbers can't be rejected entirely, the kinds of numbers you use should vary depending on the ultimate goals of the project, notes Arabinda Roy, senior project manager at software services vendor Data Inc.
"Despite being a great decision-making tool, ROI is often a misleading indicator for deciding whether a project should be pursued or not," says Roy.