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Why do so Many IT Projects Fail

By Matthew Carr

As an outsider, you might think that the IT industry is the goose that lays golden eggs and asks for nothing in return. And why shouldn’t you? So many countries have tax deductions for IT employees and employers alike, and all those who work in the field seem to live prosperous lives. While the industry seems to be thriving, the harsh truth is that it has its own problems, just like many other industries. Expensive projects fail everywhere and it’s often hard to pinpoint the cause or, better said, to pinpoint a single cause. In fact, research shows that only one in eight projects can be deemed successful; granted, in this context, successful projects are those that meet the deadlines, the quality requirements and the budget, so one might argue that even those that fail at one or all these categories can still bring in revenue.

How much does failure cost the IT industry?

The usual metric by which projects are judged as failed is leaking money, even those that see the light of day and are launched on their respective markets. Make no mistake, the sums are quite hefty; for instance, one study shows that by 2009 only the global cost of failed IT projects was as high as 6 trillion USD.

When analyzing failure costs, it is important to keep one thing in mind: we speak of failed IT projects, but they can affect all industries. Today, no company can run properly without a good IT system in place and every industry is susceptible of paying the high IT failure costs.

Bad project management – the root of IT failures

As previously stated, it is hard to pinpoint a single cause for these very expensive failures. Yet, there is one thing that keeps being named when analyzing the least successful of endeavors: project management. The task of an IT project manager is never an easy one – processes, Gantt charts, hundreds of emails per week and tens of different reports to internal and external stakeholders leave very little room for the actual team management.

The most common tendency is to blame the people in charge (i.e. the project managers) for poor performance. While it might be tempting to believe that simply replacing one person can have a dramatic positive impact upon the whole service management process, this is rarely the case. Often times, the root causes of failure are either outside the project manager’s control, or need more than just commitment from a project manager in order to be changed. Bad decisions can be made at every level, and they range from overestimating the benefits of a technology or underestimating the complexity of its deployment, to simply putting the wrong people in charge of implementation.

But it is easy to name another underlying cause of why project management seems to be always the scapegoat: most people see project management and service management as separate entities that have nothing in common and don’t influence each other. This is far from the truth; ITIL – one of the three frameworks of IT Service Management, clearly underlines the need for project management to be involved in all the other aspects of any business.

Read the complete blogpost here.

Matthew is Savision’s Business Intelligence Manager. After having spent over 6 years at Cisco as an accountant & revenue specialist, and 3 years at Clever Communications & Belkin as a Finance Manager. Matthew entered the software community in January 2011 when he joined Savision, where he is responsible for growing Savision’s reach through tech and commercial partnerships. Matthew is a graduate from the University of Manchester and is also a chartered accountant.

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