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"I don't think IT professionals do enough to sell themselves or their projects inside the organization," Ward says. "They tend to have very poor diplomatic skills and don't do a good enough job of relationship building."
Ward says a growing part of ESI's curriculum is teaching project managers how to act more like consultants, give good presentations, and hone their personal communication skills.
A key metric is how IT managers respond to a crisis and inform users. Both BMC and Sun measure how quickly tech managers communicate after a significant event and periodically poll user communities about their levels of satisfaction -- or lack thereof.
What managers say, and how they say it, is crucial to perception -- and harder to quantify.
BMC's Williams says the content of the message needs to be something business managers can relate to. "If you're the CTO for a bank, and you say something like, 'Router 63J5 just went down,' your users will have no clue whether to care about that," he says. "But if you say, 'Branch banking in the Northeast just went down,' you will definitely have their attention."
Susan Snedaker, author of How to Cheat at IT Project Management, says sometimes it's merely a matter of using the right spin.
"If you're having problems, don't say, 'We have no idea what the problem is or how to fix it.' Say, 'We're investigating the cause of the problem and will keep you updated.' "
Tech managers should look at every communication as another opportunity to create the impression of success, Snedaker says.
"One way to improve not only real but perceived project success is better communication with the project team, users, stakeholders, executives -- everyone who touches the project," Snedaker adds.
The CEO's projects never fail
The other key component of success is getting business owners to, well, own the project.
"If people think the project is owned by the IT department, as a kind of push from tech rather than pull from business, it dramatically decreases its chance of success," says Ulf Casten Carlberg, director of enterprise performance management at Intentia in Stockholm, Sweden. "Business management has to be in the driver's seat."
Bill Hill, IT director at the City of Dayton, Ohio, puts it a little more bluntly. "A project could be so good that it comes in well under budget, saves a fortune, and does everything it's supposed to do, but if it doesn't have a high-powered backer, it's a pig."
Conversely, Hill adds that a project could be a complete loser, but if someone uses it to get a favorable reaction from the press or public, it's considered a winner.