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Chapter 5 - Critical Success Factors

While no project manager can fully reduce the complexity created by the larger environment, the challenges to innovative efforts stemming from that complexity can be mitigated. Throughout the projects each team employed a variety of strategies and techniques to manage these challenges and through these efforts identified a number of factors as critical to their success. Eight factors were identified by the project teams overall as most critical to their success. The importance of each varied depending on the stage of the project as well as the make-up of the project team. In general, the grantees recognized four distinct project stages – the proposal stage, the kick-off stage, the execution stage and the completion stage. In the proposal stage, for instance, many of the grantees talked about the importance of creating a shared vision as well as leveraging existing partnerships and resources. In the execution stage, most stated that strong management techniques and knowledge about technology were key to their success.

Eight recommendations for future efforts
  1. Employ a skilled manager using strong project management practices.
  2. Create a shared vision of your project.
  3. Align purpose with identified needs and capabilities of your stakeholders.
  4. Define success in terms of the goal of the project.
  5. Leverage existing partnerships and resources.
  6. Understand and be comfortable with the technology.
  7. Expect change and be flexible.
  8. Create a sustainable model.

Each factor is discussed below in the form of a recommendation to future project teams. Brief vignettes from the projects are provided as illustration of how each factor was critical to the efforts of the project teams. Each factor section includes a brief excerpt from a relevant section of CTG’s Making Smart IT Choices, a toolkit used throughout the conference calls as a resource to help support the teams’ work. A set of tips for putting each recommendation into practice is also provided.

Analysis is a group process
Consensus-finding and –building tools are often needed to help a group resolve different views and conflicting objectives or interests. Groups also frequently need to be introduced to models for collaboration, especially if they’ve never worked together before. Effective teamwork may also involve difficult trade-offs and other choices, so some decision making tools and techniques can be useful. Group processes take skill and time to work effectively but they result in well-documented and well-understood decisions that can then guide the work group to a successful outcome.