Why IT Projects Fail

A descending bar graph with hazard cones and signs at the smallest end
13 Dec 2015

Why IT Projects Fail – and Why They Don’t Have to Anymore

IT projects have a reputation for failure. They have success rates of just over 30% when compared to projects in other sectors. Those that do succeed often suffer severe hiccups along the way. Another shameful reality for many IT projects is that often whey they are fully completed they are never actually used! What a waste of time and money.

Why IT Projects “Fail”

IT Projects often fail for a few key reasons. The first is simply due to poor project management practices – if the person in charge can’t effectively respond to all areas of the project that may change or present a problem.

The other is because of too little support or sponsorship from executive management – if your boss or board doesn’t have faith in the project, or is technophobic, then chances are you’re not going to get what you need from them to successfully see an IT project through its lifespan successfully.

The broader context of the increasing rate of technology, business and market change on both a local and global level also puts greater strain on individual IT projects, IT resources and IT departments – all reducing their chance of success.

Perhaps for this reason, like any major business venture, IT projects need to be managed with your business needs firmly in mind and a clearly defined mechanism for review and change! In this day and age IT projects must be managed with the knowledge that business, user and client needs will likely change during the course of the project.

Why They Don’t Have to Fail

IT projects, like any other, are only as good as the project manager or management team behind them. There are some important factors of IT project management – which differ slightly from projects in other sectors.

Any IT project manager needs to know that their project sits on constantly shifting ground. An IT project is prone to constant changes in technology. Factoring this into the lifespan and contingency budget is crucial. Also, you need to be aware that other projects within your business or organisation have the potential to affect your project, and that external factors might too. Sharing internal resources with other departments, for example, can create difficulty during the project lifespan, and other outside factors can also create delays and difficulties. There is also frequently a disconnect between business user needs and the development of the system solution which can lead to inferior products, expensive fixes and project failure.

For these reasons the risk of scope blowout on IT projects is high and makes the need for effective stakeholder management, sponsor support and executive buy-in essential to drive project success. .Effective communication with project stakeholders at all levels is vital, and this communication needs to be free from complex IT and technical jargon in order to avoid alienating these stakeholders and ensure the project remains aligned with business objectives.

The Answer Is in the People

The answer is also in your human resources. Good people skills are absolutely essential, especially when dealing with the tech department. Finding resources that can translate complex IT concepts into readily understandable business language can be key to identifying issues early, saving money, facilitating project team cohesion and driving project success and benefits realization.

Stick With What You Know

Finally, having a set policy and procedure that is based on tried and tested best practice is a must have for any IT project. There is no need to re-invent the wheel for every project, and a lot of time and energy can be reserved for other parts of the undertaking!