26 June 2018

Why Digital Projects Fail

GCD at Digital DNA 2018

The team here at GCD were out in force this week at the tech event of the year, Digital DNA. Hosted at St George’s Market in Belfast, the two day event and exhibition attracted some of the biggest names in the business.  

With the NI tech world in attendance, we seized the opportunity and hosted a panel of digital experts to discuss the oft taboo subject of ‘failure’ in digital projects – asking ‘Why Do Digital Projects Fail?’. 

On the panel were:- 

  1. Kris Jones, CTO at Secure Broadcast 
  2. Tara Simpson, CEO at Instil Software 
  3. Andrew Cuthbert, Technical Director at GCD
  4. Joan McAleer, Senior Software Consultant at Deloitte Digital 
  5. Gerry Patterson, Director at HNH Digital 
  6. Emma Kerr, Marketing Director at GCD (me!)

Chaired by our very own Patsy Lagan, GCD Project Manager extraordinaire, we surfaced some really interesting thoughts and opinions.

GCD at Digital DNA 2018

So in case you missed us at the event, here are some of the key takeaways:- 

  • There is failure and then there is FAILURE. There is often no room for FAILURE, but small fails in a project can often be planned for, handled and, in reality, often present us with an opportunity to find a new and better way of doing something.
  • Failure is what drives innovation and pushes boundaries. Without it, we are but standing still.
  • Being honest and frank with stakeholders and clients, from the outset, about what is involved in the design and development of complex software, is the best place to start. It sets expectations. It keeps everyone on the same page. It helps establish if there is a “right fit” between client/stakeholder and supplier.
  • One of the most important things a Project Manager can do is to work hard at establishing a solid relationship with the business / product owners or clients. Better projects are delivered, if there is open communication, confidence and trust. According to Joan, this is both a skill and a talent. It takes time. It takes effort. But the benefits it affords to the working relationship are immeasurable.
  • Allow and embrace failure in a project. Expect that it will take five attempts to do that complex roll out and if your team ends up doing it in three attempts, the effort is then celebrated as opposed to being viewed negatively – everyone wins!
  • Be kind to the developers on a team. Is a project truly successful, if despite hitting all its goals, your dev team is left depleted and burnt out?
  • Clients should be encouraged to get to know the developers working on their projects. You are a team. You need each other. Get involved.
  • Plan for failure. Expect failure. Discuss failure. So if it happens, you have a response. You’ve already got a plan. There is confidence that you’ve “got this”.