5 Reasons Networking Projects Go Wrong

Project management is an essential skill for networking professionals. Keep your projects from going off the rails with these tips.

By Elizabeth Harrin | Posted Apr 8, 2014
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Much of networking revolves around keeping things stable. After all, businesses must maintain service and ensure that everyone can access the data and systems they need to keep the organization functioning day-to-day. Sometimes, however, things must change, and changing things normally entails a project.

Projects let you implement new things in a controlled way and usually involve a team of people. But with McKinsey reporting that large IT projects are typically 45% over budget and take 7% more time than planned, you'll likely face a few challenges along the way. Here are 5 things to look out for: all reasons why your networking projects could go wrong.

1. Lack of sponsorship

Every project needs a champion, ideally someone who will be responsible for the benefits delivered. With many technical projects, this will be the CIO or another senior executive. Your project's champion will support you by making resources available, sorting out problems that you can’t manage yourself and handling office politics. But if your sponsor is too busy (or simply doesn’t care much about your project), you won’t have that level of commitment.

Without executive support, you should ask yourself why you even bother. If no one wants the project, what’s the point of working on it? You won’t get the cash or people that you need to make it a success, and once you hit a roadblock, you won’t have anyone to help move it out of the way. All that means that your project is going to struggle or stop completely.

Fix it now: Get a named project sponsor who is committed to your project.

2. Unclear technical requirements

What, exactly, are you trying to do? Vague technical requirements will slow you down as you try to work out how new security methodologies will work in your SDN environment or puzzle over other problems. Without clear technical requirements, you won’t know what problem you're trying to fix, so you’ll have little chance of working out how to do it.

Make sure that all the relevant individuals are involved in establishing the technical requirements. What is essential for addressing a cloud issue might create problems for the team looking at network virtualization.

Fix it now: Clarify the problem that this project will address and use that to focus the technical requirements.

3. Poor communication

According to research from PMI, poor communication puts 56% of your project budget at risk. When your own network team, the rest of IT and your business colleagues fail to communicate effectively, your project will face challenges. People need to know when they must work on tasks or test the solution, and people need to be made aware of what’s happening when. If you are changing processes or protocols, it’s even more important that the teams affected understand what is going on and why. If they don’t understand the benefits, they might ignore the new ways of working and go back to doing things the old way.

Fix it now: Set up cross-functional teams to manage the project and ensure that everyone is kept informed as work progresses.

4. Failure to understand the solution

Failure to understand the technical solution pitched by vendors can increase the cost of your project. For example, investing in infrastructure which is incompatible with the rest of your estate goes against the principles of interoperability and can significantly increase the amount you have to spend, regardless of that slick sales presentation.

Of course, you can’t be an expert in everything, so you occasionally have to rely on contractors, suppliers or other subject matter experts to help out, especially when you are implementing something new that no one in the company has experience with yet. Make sure that you build a period of knowledge transfer into your project plan so that you and your team can support the new solution going forward.

Fix it now: Get as much information as you can on the solution before making an investment. If you plan to manage it yourselves, build in some training time.

5. Poor planning

Projects have a definite end, which is normally when you’ve installed whatever it was you were installing and fixed the business problem identified at the outset. Poor planning can lead to that work taking much longer. If your kit isn’t ordered on time, or suppliers have delays, or the specialist UC consultant isn’t available until a certain date – all these things can push out the end date of your project. Delays make you look bad, especially if your senior management team have committed to clients that the work will be done on time.

As networking solutions evolve so quickly, in extreme cases poor planning can lead to you implementing a system that is obsolete before it’s even installed. If your company’s competitive advantage relies on fast response times or the promise of enhanced data security, keeping ahead of the rest of the industry becomes essential. You’ll need to take the time to work out exactly how long tasks will take and create a realistic estimate for when the project can be completed.

Fix it now: Create a firm work plan with input from everyone involved so you are all committed to completing tasks according to the schedule.

Getting a project delivered on time, within the original budget, meeting all the business and technical requirements and interfacing well with the rest of your network estate is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice. Stay organized, keep everyone informed, don’t let suppliers bamboozle you and stick to the plan. Soon you’ll be known for your project management skills as well as your ability to administer the network professionally.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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