The impact good and bad relationships have on projects is clear: "Negative relationships make people want to avoid each other or work against each other," says Bill Hagerup, a senior consultant with Ouellette & Associates, a IT leadership and project management consultancy.
On the other hand, when mutual trust exists between IT project managers and stakeholders, IT project managers are more likely to discuss problems that could threaten the project as they arise, says Imholz. If bad blood exists between the two groups, project managers may not be inclined to point out those issues, or they may try to cover them up.
"If you look at projects that fail, invariably someone on those projects knew things were going bad," says Imholz. "If you don't have relationships and trust, those things don't surface. And when you don't do something about problems in a timely manner, those problems invariably get bigger. In many cases, minor problems become more serious because they're not addressed in a timely manner. A culture of openness is absolutely essential to good project performance."
Furthermore, when something does go wrong with a project, business partners are less likely to place the sole blame for them on IT if they respect IT, says Shaw Industries' Livingston. In fact, they're more likely to give IT some leeway with the project schedule, he says.
"It doesn't matter what technology you're using, how talented your technology staff is, and how knowledgeable the business partners are on process and business improvement: Every system initiative will have issues," says Livingston. "If you don't have a relationship, you resort to pointing fingers as opposed to being transparent and admitting 'we messed up' or 'we didn't test that as well'. If you have a good relationship, you'll sit down and find a way to make it work."
Decisions affecting the project also get made more promptly when everyone involved gets along. "Fast and good decisions are crucial to keeping projects on track," says Imholz. "The failure of senior people to make decisions means decisions are made at lower levels of the organization. If you have a software developer who's waiting [for a decision] on a business requirement, there's three things that can happen: He can guess what to do and guess right. He can wait for a decision and while he's waiting he's not as productive. Third, he can guess and guess wrong. If those are equal possibilities, two-thirds of the time it will be detrimental to the project. And if you stack enough of those decisions on top of each other, it will negatively impact the project."
Relationships Get Overlooked