IT Project Planning Must Anticipate Supply Chain Shortages

Apple announced in late October that it lost $6 billion in potential Q4 sales due to shortages of semiconductors and other electrical components needed for its iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. If a multi-trillion-dollar technology company can’t acquire the materials it needs, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how difficult it will be for the rest of us.

Pandemic-triggered disruptions to technology supply chains are creating significant challenges for companies inside and outside the tech sector. Delayed shipments of chips, switches, circuit boards and other components — compounded by ongoing labor shortages —are forcing companies everywhere to rethink plans for technology projects.

Here’s a sampling of projected leadtimes for the delivery of some key tech components:

·       Processors: Up to 16 months

·       Networkswitches: Up to a year

·       Servers: Up to three months

·       Wireless access points: Up to five months

·       Laptops/ workstations: Up to four months, depending on the configuration

Pressing On

These delays are compromising post-quarantine plans to modernize IT systems, implement hybrid computing models, extend cloud capabilities and enhance cybersecurity. About 40 percent of IT departments expect to deal with shipping delays or logistical problems, increases in product costs and limited availability of products in 2022, according to a new study from Spiceworks Ziff Davis.

Nevertheless, study participants say they won’t put necessary updates on hold. Almost half say they expect to increase IT spending in 2022 to expand the modernization efforts that were accelerated by the transition to remote work in 2020. Current shortages will just require more detailed planning.

When preparing for IT projects, companies must anticipate and plan for delays to ensure they get the equipment they need in time. That’s particularly important for any end-of-life equipment. Beyond hardware acquisition, IT planning in 2022 will also require lining up the staff necessary to implement solutions. Project timelines must allow sufficient time for deployment with additional time for troubleshooting and fine-tuning before your official launch.

Setting Expectations

Such precautions aren’t unique to current supply chain issues. Planning has always been critical to the success of IT projects, and the current challenges only amplify the importance. In fact, the Project Management Institute (PMI) says effective IT project management always anticipates the unexpected.

According to the PMI, more than a quarter of all IT project failures are the result of unexpected risks. Project roadmaps and timelines must reflect the possibility that unforeseen circumstances could have a significant impact. In today’s environment, project plans should include alternate sources for raw materials and hardware assets, as well as expedited shipping alternatives.

Project planning will also help ensure that you have well-defined objectives and milestones for measuring progress. Projects with unrealistic goals or timelines are far more likely to experience scope creep, cost over runs and delays. According to the PMI, 49 percent of IT projects don’t meet their deadlines, 43 percent exceed their budgets and 31 percent don’t achieve their goals.

Accurate planning also helps ensure you assemble a team with the right expertise to achieve your objectives. If you don’t have the expertise in-house and need to find a partner, it is best to know that upfront rather than scrambling for resources in the middle of the project.

Hardware and labor shortages will almost certainly complicate IT planning in 2022, but they don’t have to bring your projects to a complete halt. With proper planning, you can develop a project roadmap built on reasonable expectations and achievable milestones.