Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Should IT hire a town crier?

Hearing the words “town crier” may conjure up images of an elaborately-dressed person, ringing a bell and yelling out announcements. And although the practice dates back to the 18th century, I believe the same principles can be applied in modern day IT.

In my 18+ years of working with organizations of all sizes, I have heard many stories about IT projects. Some had happy endings, while others ended in tragedy. How is it that many not-so-well run projects are very successful and other projects that were run perfectly completely fail? I have often thought about this and wondered why, when everything is done or right, did the results not turn out as expected?

Communication: The key to IT project success

After pondering this for a while, I came to the realization that those projects that were successful had one common element that the unsuccessful projects I’d seen all lacked. Each successful project, and its value to the business, was communicated. I am not talking about executive reports and fancy dashboards that show all kinds of financials. I am talking about communication to the primary users, be they employees or external customers, focused on what exciting things were coming and why those users should care. 

Will the new project make their lives easier or more productive? Provide a higher level of service? Or enable an entirely new service? Whatever the benefits and value of a project, the simple step of communicating those features to users can make the difference between success and failure.

Self-service—or disservice?

Consider the classic example of the self-service portal project. I have seen so many of these fail because the team working on the project did so behind closed doors. Designing a beautiful portal that they were sure everyone would flock to—with no input from the intended users. After months of sweat and tears, launch day arrives.

With great fanfare, the portal goes live. And users stay away in droves.

The problem is that no one knew the portal or its big reveal were coming. They really didn’t understand the value it could bring to them. The self-service portal its designers thought would be a hit goes unused.

Communication helps every IT project

If you’ve kept even a half-closed eye on the industry these days, you would have no doubt heard about some of the emerging trends. Terms such as DevOps, Cloud & Virtualization, Digital Workplace and more are being discussed, some already have projects underway, others may have these on the horizon. 

Regardless of where you are on the journey, as your IT teams engage in their laundry list of projects, if there was any word of advice I would give it is to BE your own town crier and tell people what you are doing!! Communicate the vision, the benefits, why employees and customers would care and do so throughout its lifecycle. Build momentum along the way so that rather than pulling back the curtain for the great reveal and hoping everyone “gets it”, let the anticipation build so that on launch day, everyone can celebrate the success.

Communication. Doing this one simple thing will increase the odds of success. (Bell ringing not required.)