How to prevent an IT project from becoming a disaster?

Blog  — Fri 26 Jan 2024

It can often happen. There's a challenge, and for some involved parties, the solution seems to involve throwing some "IT at it." While enthusiasm is great, this doesn't always end well. Some projects end up being a downright disaster. But why does this happen? And more importantly, how can you prevent it?

Too often, conceptual ideas clash with IT technical reality because the translation between them isn't straightforward. Ideally, in the initial phase, there should be an exploration where there's expertise in both business processes and IT. Collaboration works excellently here.

Don't overcommit and keep the brakes on

Subsequently, it's essential not to overcommit right away. Keep the brakes on. Keep it small, manageable, and pragmatic, even if there are grand ambitions. So, don't write lengthy functional descriptions for four years. And not 12,000 revisions laid out across 800 pages. And not laden with jargon from cover to the last page.

No. Consider the concept in the smallest and simplest form possible. And develop it into a mini-plan on a single sheet of paper. Based on that plan, a Proof of Concept (PoC), or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), can be developed. This is a rough, initial, and tiny solution. Reflect on it afterward. Tweak it if necessary, but keep it small. This is a crucial moment that will greatly influence the entire course.

Break down the real challenges and solve them first

If there are specific challenges, break them down into separate puzzles. Tackle each piece of this puzzle independently, with its tiny concept and MVP. So, never leave the question marks until last. Address them first.

If all this succeeds, and now there's no doubt about the feasibility of the overall project, then it's time for further development. The potential individual MVPs can then be linked together. But even here, it's essential to keep it as small as possible for now. No large, lengthy, or complex development yet.

Don't cement anything yet and be open to revision

Developing (non-generic) software is not like linear production, such as in a car factory. It's not assembly-line work. Software development is more like lab research. And for that reason, nothing can be set in stone at this stage. The right solution is yet to be determined.

As the rudimentary MVP is slowly expanded upon, new challenges may arise. Some of these may require a revision of the initial approach. Therefore, you want to have little standing on this foundation. So that new insights requiring fundamental changes can still be realistically and cost-effectively accommodated.

Continue working in small development cycles

This approach aligns well with iterative development. Small cycles, therefore. By bringing all parties together after each round, everyone can see where things stand. And if all noses point in the same direction after that reflection, then it's time for the next round. Keep going until the final product is in sight.

Turn a trial balloon into a real success

Exclusive-IT specializes in translating a challenge or need into a (custom) solution. It starts with understanding the need and jointly exploring the business process. Then comes the translation into a concept. And then a mini-functional design, culminating in a working MVP. All in manageable small steps taken together.

Whether it's a startup exploring a daring idea or an industry giant curious about launching a new trial balloon; this is how you turn IT into a solution, rather than an unexpected disaster area.