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HP Education Services: Boost the success of your IT projects

How IT training can increase project ROI

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by Andrea Harris, March 2007

"By assuring the project team is properly skilled prior to beginning a complex project, IT managers can dramatically reduce the risk of project failure, decrease project cost and increase project effectiveness, especially in high-risk projects."

IDC White Paper sponsored by HP,
'Skill Level and Training Key Factors in IT Project Success,' #204134, Oct 2006

If your IT organization is like most, you're constantly juggling several major projects. As budget pressures mount, it's more important than ever to take every step possible to guarantee the success of these projects.

But what factor has the biggest impact on success? A thorough project plan? Technology that works the way it's supposed to work? Clear communication among team members?

Of course all of these factors are important, but the number one factor affecting IT project success is the skill of the team. In fact, IDC research shows a strong, undeniable link between training, team skill and project success.(1)

Granted, it's not surprising to hear that staffing IT projects with highly-trained workers contributes to success. In fact, it's a bit of a 'no brainer.' But what is surprising to learn is just how much of an impact skill and training have on project ROI.

And the reason why this impact is so important to understand is that training is often the first item cut from the budget when money is tight. As we found out from the recent IDC white paper Skill Level and Training Key Factors in IT Project Success, this short-term financial decision can be the kiss of death for a critical IT project.

Rick Sherman, a business intelligence columnist with DM Review and TechTarget, agrees: "One of the biggest mistakes project teams make is in refusing to acknowledge the need for training or cutting it from the budget. Companies that make this short-sighted mistake undermine their own efforts to take IT projects to their full potential."

What contributes to project success?

According to an IDC study, teams with twice the amount of training had a far higher level of project success.(1)

IDC polled 144 senior IT managers and asked them about their organizations' IT projects — a total of 377 projects across the group — and what contributed to project success. The top answers were: Projects that met their objectives, delivered within budget and on time, and met internal specifications and stakeholder objectives.

However, the study revealed that only 75 percent of IT projects met most of these objectives. More complicated projects — IT consolidation, business applications rollout, and business and disaster recovery planning — tended to have the lowest success rates. Lower risk projects tended to meet with more success. These included operating system migration, shared print services and service/help desk projects.

Most notably, the study uncovered fascinating data on what contributes to project success. According to respondents, the most critical success factor was the project teams' skill.

How much skill is required and how much training is enough? More is better. According to the IDC white paper, teams with twice the amount of training had a far higher level of project success. In fact, projects where 7 percent of the project budget was spent on training were significantly more successful than projects where training took up only 4 percent of the budget.

The value of learning from within

Knowing that training is so crucial to project outcome, one might wonder why it's not always a priority. In an ideal world, every IT project would be staffed with enough well-trained, experienced people.

But the real world challenges' include a short supply of skilled IT labor and the declining skill of existing teams. As technology changes it makes the team's existing skills obsolete. And staff turnover contributes further to the overall decline of a team's knowledge base. Known as 'skill leakage,' this phenomenon can reduce an IT organization's skill level by as much as half in just six years.

Now, organizations can plug the gap. With IT training from HP, internal teams can learn the skills needed for project success without the unpredictability of outside hiring. Project teams can have the skills needed to improve performance and make more informed decisions to minimize project risk and maximize success. As a result, they can begin to leverage technology benefits more quickly for better ROI.

Contact HP today to make training a top priority in all your upcoming IT projects — and give them the highest opportunity for success.

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(1) IDC White Paper sponsored by HP, 'Skill Level and Training Key Factors in IT Project Success,' #204134, Oct 2006


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