Risk Management

Why Big IT Projects Always Go Wrong

The best programming team in the world is going to fail to deliver a useful product on time if the coordination between them is flawed. John Naughton waxes on this subject for The Observer, and he looks to Fred Brooks’s 1975 book The Mythical Man-Month for an explanation of the phenomenon.

 In a series of essays, the famous book outlines Brooks’s rocky experience in devising IBM’s 360 range of mainframes in the 1960s. It was a project that ballooned in costs, and Brooks realized that as more programmers were enlisted for the project, the delays actually increased rather than dwindled. Naughton then points to Levi Strauss, who in 2003 opted to update its antiquated IT system into something that could support its operations across nations. 

The budget was supposed to be less than $5 million, and yet in 2008, the company “took a $192.5m charge against earnings to compensate for the botched project — and fired its chief information officer.” Naughton’s takeaway is that if you are not prepared to lose a lot of money on a project, make sure the bones of the project are strong at the outset and coordinate with everyone whose input will be critical in sending the project on its way. He also really wants you to buy Brooks’s book.

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