Cutter: Identify Problems Early to Prevent Delays

When it comes to developing e-projects, not recognizing or admitting technology-based problems can easily spell disaster. It is the project manager's responsibility to find out about those problems as early as possible.

"IT professionals are often optimists, inclined to believe that what is possible will also be achievable," says Cutter Technology Council Fellow Robert D. Austin. "When things do not go according to plan, they are sometimes inclined to deny the severity or existence of problems."

Austin offers managers five ways to prevent technology problems from spiraling out of control:

  • Set aggressive deadlines that are stretch goals for your staff.
  • Separate deadlines from planning estimates.
  • Ask direct, concrete questions about progress.
  • Establish communication links to the front lines.
  • Know the technology.

"Managers accountable for on-time delivery may deny that their projects have encountered difficulties," concludes Austin. "These are human tendencies, but they are very, very dangerous in the e-business context. The severity of technology-based problems is often greatly multiplied by this kind of denial. How catastrophic the consequences of technological uncertainty are depends on how quickly a developer or manager comes forward to say, 'This is going to be harder than I thought.'"