Project Management – Why Information Technology Projects Fail

To understand the reason why Information Technology projects fail, it’s important to understand the roles people play in delivering IT projects.

The Players

The Business (often referred to as the project “sponsor”) drives the project. Whether it is a new application to improve business processes or upgraded hardware, the project itself is driven by The Business that generates revenue for the company.

Business Analysts are key players in IT project delivery. The Business knows what the end result should be, whether it is cost savings, improved revenue or any other desired result. Unfortunately, technical project staff generally understand their own specific disciplines and rarely grasp the big picture or business concepts that drive projects. The Business Analyst gains an understanding of the big picture and translates it into technical requirements so technical project staff can architect, design deploy and operate a solution.

Technical Project Staff are equipped and trained in specific disciplines. They are assigned technical tasks to perform as a component of the overall project delivery. Technical Project Staff rarely see the big picture or the end result of their efforts.

Project Managers manage all of the processes, resources, budgets, risks, schedules, tasks and communications necessary to complete the project. Project Managers interact with all of The Players.

Some Failure Points

Information Technology Projects fail for a number of reasons, and the responsibility for failure can fall on any or all of The Players.

The most obvious point of failure is in the gathering of business requirements. Often projects require restarts or multiple restarts due to the failure to gather business requirements accurately, changes in requirements (usually as business evolves) or change in scope.

Before blaming the Business Systems Analyst for this Information Technology Projects are managed by a Project Manager and driven by The Business who play key roles in project success. In addition, with every increase in productivity and ability to deliver complex systems and infrastructure, the bar is raised again on the definition of success to deliver even more complex systems faster, meeting customer functional and non-functional requirements with predictable schedules and costs.

Technical Project Staff are also accountable for targeting improvement to quality, cost control, productivity, and meeting customer expectations even as we see rapidly changing requirements and tools.

Additional failure points include:

Project Cancellation – There are a number of reasons why sponsors might cancel a project. Topping the list is a change in business direction.

Cost Overruns – At some point a project may become to costly to complete and it becomes time to cut your losses or restart.

Resource Constraints – One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is attempting to deliver information technology projects with existing staff, or to underestimate work effort and resources required to deliver the desired end result

Scheduling Issues – An Information Technology project must be carefully scheduled to insure the desired result is achievable in the required timeframe. I recently relocated a data center over the holiday season and found out the hard way that it takes much more time during that time of year to get things done,

Poor or Lack of Communication among The Players – All of The Players involved must be in the loop for a project to succeed. Regular communiques, email, phone calls, scheduled and ad-hoc meetings all contribute to keeping everyone up to date and moving in the right direction.

Poor Project Risk Management and Recovery – The risk of project failure must be clearly understood and business expectations managed. Failure to do so may result in failure, cancellation or worse.

See our article entitled “Five Things you Must do for your Project to Succeed” for useful information on making your projects succeed.

By Greg Pack