Keep IT projects on schedule–part one

by | Jan/26/2011

One of the most frequent complaints senior executives have about IT professions is that their projects are always behind and over budget.

This one really surprises me. Face it—most IT professionals have never been introduced to the basics of project management.

The first part of this three-part series, which you may want to forward to your IT professionals, discusses a WBS. In its most basic form, the Work Breakdown Structure is a list made up of steps needed to complete a project. The steps are listed mostly in order and there are designated milestones.

The next item in this three-part series will be about the Gantt chart.

Please post your comments on this blog.


  1. Tom

    When you do present an accurate picture of what the schedule for a project will be, quite often you are pressured to change the schedule to meet some imaginary deadline. No features are removed. No time is saved. You are just expected to magically get it done faster. (It’s the “IT is so mysterious to me that they must have a magic wand. They should be able to use it faster.” syndrome.) Then, when the project runs “over” and gets done when you said that would have, everyone’s surprised. I know… it’s a “Dilbert” view of the world. I wish that I hadn’t seen it happen so often that it’s just reality to me.

    • Mike Foster

      Thank you Tom for your comment, and so many of the IT professionals I work with face the same challenge. It stinks to feel like a victim. If you want to, bring up this exact topic with whomever is pressuring you. One approach is to say to the person(s) who are pressuring you, “I understand you want this done sooner than planned. Will you please help me figure out how to accomplish this?”

      I have found that, when you ask, “will you help me” most people are willing to help. Perhaps they will let you contract out, hire more staff, rethink their pressure about the date, remove some of the deliverables, decide to eliminate anyone asking to change the scope (refusing to allow scope creep without allowing you to set a new delivery date) or help find some other solution.

      Believe it or not, some executive tend to pad the “Due date.” in other words, they sometimes reveal to me, “It always takes IT twice as long as they say it will, so I always tell them complete the project in half the time I expect. That way, IT finishes the projects finish on time.”

      This kind of game can result in disappointment all around.

      I’ve also found that if IT always finds a way to “meet the pressured date,” the executives see that they “get what they wanted” – almost like they had a victory of some kind. The LAST thing I encourage you to do is to purposely delay a project to “show them!” Instead, maybe you can change your own estimates to be as realistic as possible, and meet them.

      Another thing that may help is for you, and other professionals working on the project, to be allowed to have at least 2 hours a day of “completely uninterrupted time” in order to focus on the project. Finishing a task is really difficult when, every five minutes, someone interrupts you.

      I would like to hear your feedback.



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