Critical Success Factors in the IS Development Lifecycle

It is rather hard to talk about success factors of IT project development in isolation from the organization management. The very concept of quality IT products is closely interwoven with the technologies used to create them. As IT projects are closely connected with the creativity realisation and personnel innovation usage, the task of the project assessment began rather complex. ATP Life Assurances company is focused on the effective IT project management process. In order to ensure success of its IT project, the company has been using a set of methods for the project assessment.

Analytical rigour is a key factor of the company’s success in IT project management. Analytical rigour is the tool that helps to make decisions based on the careful analysis of information. In the case of ATP Life Assurances, it is information about the IT project, the project itself, the plan of project development, etc. The analytical rigour of ATP Life Assurances is incorporated through modern management information technology, sophisticated financial and economic analysis techniques, accomplishment, and contemporary financial instruments and strategies deployed in the IT project assessment processes. It is vital for the company’s management to have critical thinking skills in order to understand how good the project is and how it can be improved. Effective analytical rigour helps to see the IT projects and their components in the way that they really are, rather than as they appear to be. This helps management of the company to be sure that they are working to tackle problems and project limitations rather than symptoms.

Another tool that ATP Life Assurances use in order to assess its IT projects effectively is Return-on-Investment (ROI). ROI is one of the most readable and the most commonly used measure assessing investment or business performance from the point of view of the investor. It is clear to almost all users of financial statements and requires no special training. Therefore, the management of ATP Life Assurance decided to apply it according to the assessment of project needs. The concept of ROI allows the company to make clear management decisions based on understandable principles. In the case of ATP Life Assurance, information technology and software implementation specialists use ROI as a tool to assess the feasibility of a particular software product or IT project.  In addition, ROI is used by the company as an initial tool in the evaluation of investment reliability of IT projects. The calculated values of ROI can be compared with the income on investing money in alternative projects, or even just with a bank deposit. Therefore, with the help of ROI, company management can weed out projects that merit further attention. This tool also determines if the project needs any improvement.

In order to manage the effectiveness and efficiency of the current project, the management of ATP Life Assurance has developed and embedded a red / yellow / green coding system to reflect the current health of the project. The effectiveness of this coding system in the management has been proved many times, as it is a rather simple and efficient tool for seeing the status of the IT project development. This tool helps managers to understand the current position of the project without any deep analysis.

Analysis of the status of accomplishment by project managers also concentrates on the schedule and financial indicators and ratios; however, they can skip the necessary information that is related to the product effectiveness and not show the problems that are not related to the financial situation with the project. The management of the company and IT project developers often do not understand that the problem they face is very serious and can badly influence the project. Such problems can be connected with the need for a new idea, consulting, etc. These problems can be solved rather quickly and the coding system lights them up for the personnel and supervisors.

The special coding system allows to understand what IT projects of the company are doing well (green colour), which ones need some improvement (yellow), and which ones need attention from the Managing Director of the company and IT project developers (red). This system also reports on the current situation with the IT project performance, thus increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the company’s management system.

The ATP Life Assurance company has a rather strong and diversified system of IT projects assessment. However, the assessment process can be made more effective by the modern assessment technologies, technics, and methods usage. The list of the assessment methods that ATP Life Assurance company can use are discussed below.

In order to increase the complexity of the IT projects, they should build from different tasks that are easy to discern and accomplish. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is the result of detailed content of the draft. WBS is a key element of the project planning. Without such plan, it is impossible to determine the work that needs to be done to complete the project effectively and efficiently, and therefore it is impossible to determine strictly either the cost of the IT project or its schedule. Without the plan, the scope of needed resources for the project completion cannot be calculated and there is no chance to determine when these resources should be available. Funds allocated to the project will be received on time only upon careful consideration of a detailed and phased project budget. Finally, with no idea of what work must be performed during the project, the managerial risks cannot be determined. WBS can help to solve all the above problems.

The effective WBS system implementation into the process of IT projects assessment in the ATP Life Assurance company will cause effective changes. The WBS is a hierarchical system and it would help to divide the work among the team or programmers, to designate people who are responsible for the define part of the task accomplishment, and to set strict project budget for each task and time for the task completing. The WBS and red / yellow / green coding systems usage in tandem will give Managing Director a full picture about the IT project. This will help to make company’s management more effective and efficient, organise flexible work, and decrease the risks that are connected to the IT project.

Next method of IT project assessment that would increase influence on the success of the project development is scrum method. Scrum is a set of principles on which the development process, allowing a tightly fixed and minor iterations called sprints, gets the client to work with the new software features of the highest priority. Software features of IT project that should be implemented in the next sprint are defined at the beginning of the sprint at the planning stage and are subject to change throughout its duration. Working with the strictly fixed small length sprint makes the development process more predictable and flexible.

The Burndown chart is the key element of the scrum method of the IT project assessment. Such chart shows a complete sprint, that remaining unsolved problems that labour required to complete during 21 working days. Chart also shows the number made and remaining work. It is updated daily, so that in a simple way it could show progress in the work on the sprint. The Burndown chart of IT projects shows how the tasks have been done and how much more remains to be done before the product is released (usually built on the basis of several sprints). This tool will help management of ATP Life Assurance decrease the time for the IT project assessment, because all information will be easily seen.

In order to increase the simplicity of the IT project assessment, a special report should be created. This report should be based on the budgeting variances and be open for the senior line managers, the Managing Director, and chief operating officer that are responsible for the success of the IT projects. This report should show the differences between budgeted, planned, or standard amount and the actual amount of resources and time used for the project completion. This report will help to minimize time for the project assessment, to identify the risks that project and company can face, and to predict the results of the project success.

The ATP Life Assurance company is using analytical rigour, financial Return-On-Investment tools, and red / yellow / green coding system for the IT projects assessment in order to make their operations more effective and efficient and assure their success. Such methods are rather effective, however some gaps in the IT project management can still occur. Therefore, it will be rather effective for the company to implement a range of modern methods that would increase projects’ controllability and decrease risks of their failure. The Work Breakdown Structure tool can be used to plan the whole process of the IT project completion. The Scrum and the Burndown charts tools increase the flexibility and predictability of the projects’ accomplishment and the report based on the variances understanding should be embedded. Synergetic usage of these methods will help both to minimize time needed for the IT project assessment, increase its effectiveness and efficiency, and guarantee the success of IT projects of ATP Life Assurance.

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