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Three Aspects of IT Project Failure

Despite a lot of foolproof plans and best intentions, IT projects fail – at a remarkable rate. Add to this the changing nature of business requirements that have gone from a build-to-last to a design-to-change objective, and you’ve got a frustrating operational climate for IT pros. In her blog, Pearl Zhu locates the three root causes that are the bane of many an IT project.

The Trifecta of IT Project Failure

  1. Ego of the Sponsor
  2. Loss Avoidance
  3. Ignoring Probabilities

Project sponsors play a larger than life role, as do some project sponsors' egos. Often, a sponsor will try to steer the project clear of failure even at the expense of potential success. The reason may be as simple as avoiding risk or because the project is being manipulated for their personal gain and/or status. In other scenarios, the project sponsor is happy to be involved and to oversee any necessary changes – at first. But, as time wears on, their interest wanes along with their enthusiasm and support.

Making projects work for the customer is often easier said than done. Without proper metrics for success, the project team might as well be firing in the dark:

You can talk about requirements, project managers or bad code all you want; ultimately projects fail because of combinations of three factors: lack of enterprise knowledge, static or outdated IT capabilities, and dysfunctional communication structures across the enterprise.

It is estimated that at least 30% of IT projects fail outright, and that up to 70% of projects fail to meet customer expectations. Considering how important IT is to the business, these numbers should stir a feeling of discomfort in those IT experts who pride themselves on quality service. An appropriate analysis of project risk is, of course, the first step to curbing. After all, you can’t avoid what you don’t believe is happening.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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