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Why Big IT Projects Fall Short of Expectations

Big IT projects, however unpredictable the risks and challenges they present, never surprise us in the end. The reasons, according to Dennis McCafferty in a slideshow for CIO Insight, are legion. And what IT leaders don’t know about project risk can hurt them! Let’s review the not-so-obvious drivers of project failure.

Everybody’s Failing, so Why Worry?

If everybody’s big projects are failing most of the time, then who’s going to judge if things don’t work out for your organization? Well, according to one Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study, “the ability to deliver large-scale IT projects successfully stands to become an increasingly critical competitive differentiator for companies (as well as an increasingly used yardstick for gauging the performance of leaders, including CIOs).”

Team & Stakeholder Deficiencies

Teams that lack experience will tend to move strategically, from the top down, without considering practical, bottom-up risk management tactics. Stakeholders will fail to support their inexperienced teams. Without adequate buy-in, resources and information get lost in the gap that will eventually widen, consuming the project en masse.

Various Tactical Bungles

Late in development, teams tend to bypass the testing phase, causing bigger problems in the long run. In other instances, a team will try to ‘swallow projects whole,’ meaning they neglect to break the project selectively into its more manageable components. Vendors can also make or break a project. The more experienced the IT vendor, the better. Additionally, if requirements are not defined up front, project momentum will be drained in successive waves of redefinition, as will risks. A surprisingly common mistake is to ignore data quality, regulatory requirements, and language / cultural factors at an international level.

A Couple Catch-Alls

Many of these problematic undercurrents can be addressed by hiring or otherwise obtaining a capable leader. Additionally, multiple issues will evaporate in the presence of crystal-clear project definitions. What it all boils down to is a culture of openness that values transparency, integrity, and commitment.

View the full slideshow at:

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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