Why IT Projects Fail

We have all been involved in big projects that never were successfully implemented. Ever wonder why? 


I think that the principle reason is that these projects involved significant change and most people would rather spend money than change. If you recall my item on readiness, these projects often go well beyond the organizations readiness to change. A while ago, a financial institution embarked on project to improve customer service by giving all customer-facing people access to all customer information. A great idea and the IT person who took the lead on this project made compelling arguments about how much the project would improve customer service. The project would cost millions of dollars and take considerable time. Our advice was to try it out in one branch before embarking on this huge project by implementing a working prototype. We used a front end that with some difficulty accessed all the data needed and made it available. We selected a branch and tried it out. The individual people in the branch responsible for each aspect of the operation revolted. No way were they going to allow other people in the branch access to their data! The prototype never went into operation. 


Can you imagine if we had embarked on the huge project without dealing with this fundamental issue; another failed big project. We lose so much potential in the promise of IT because we do not consider the capability of people to change. I think our whole industry fails to help people change effectively. I challenge us all to learn how to help organizations make better use of all the valuable data in their organization to make better decisions. Who are the people ready to answer the challenge? How many great ideas die because of the lack of skill we have in introducing change to an organization?

  1. Stephen Reply

    Great additional observations and input. It is very hard to translate any vision to the grassroots and have it accurately reflect the original vision.
    When thinking on this I go back to the old Telephone Game we played as children that as we said a sentence from one person to the next in the circle, it rarely looked the same by the time it returned to the originator.
    We all have our filters and preconseptions that make communication a challenge, that is why this more than anything is the number one job of good senior leaders to communicate, support and explain the vision.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Michael Coward Reply

    John Kotter (Leading Change) identifies 8 steps that are essential to successful transformations. In my opinion, two of these steps (develop a vision and communicate the vision) are the steps most often neglected during IT projects.
    While the vision or strategic objectives are probably very frequently established (usually by executives far from the front line), this vision rarely finds its way to the people that are actually implementing the technology. The message delivered to employees is usually restricted to what the change will look like rather than what the change means, why it is necessary or how specific elements were prioritized. The project sponsors choose instead to release this information on a need-to-know basis.
    Ultimately, front-line IT analysts are left to explain decisions that they didn’t make based on information that they don’t have. This leads to a general confusion among project members about how the change will actually benefit the business and a certain level of mistrust between the ultimate users and IT staff.

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