Who are the sponsors and stakeholders in the project and what is the budget allocation?
It always helps to know the final budget figure, but more importantly senior management must be on board and prepared to give full support.
Detailed project plan
Project-planning can be complex and frustrating.
Formal project plans force everyone involved, to consider all essential phases, steps, and the order in which to proceed. "Work a plan, and plan to work." "Failure to plan is planning to fail."
Team members must be available for meetings, milestone reviews, content provisioning, development support, testing, sign offs.
End user involvement is essential with representatives from every dept providing input from the get-go.
Hardware & hosting specifications should exceed expectations for performance, & integrating with internal systems.
Test, test, test
Testing is essential to project success. Whether it is unit testing (which tests one facet of the system) or integrated testing (which tests all components, including existing interfacing systems), testing should be done by current employees along with a testing script. Detail, ahead of time, what all outputs should look like. Testing data and processes should vet all scenarios, including good and bad data. System and network testing should include load tests with results reports.
Recovery plan in the event of failure
Managers know what go-live success looks like -- and when it's time to pull the plug. Every project should have a go-live backup plan in case failure becomes the only option.
Don't countermand without testing outcomes. Don't hope. Test. Listen to your experts most of the time.
Any project with an estimated timeline longer than a few weeks should have a realistic, detailed project plan. Besides forcing stakeholders to consider all tasks and tactics, doing so will force development of realistic timetables. A detailed project plan will win every time versus "best guess" or a gut feeling.
How is the new system going to act?
How are transactions and transaction times different?
Who do end-users call if they have problems?
How long is the go-live troubleshooting team going to be on site?
Set accelerated support options to minimize customer frustrations.
It's not just users who need training, but project leaders, troubleshooters, and help-desk staff, too.
Delay the project if appropriate training is not given.
Paraphrased from InfoWorld Daily article "11 signs your IT project is doomed" by Roger A. Grimes