Risk Management

Wishful Thinking Plagues IT Project Plans

Being overly optimistic is a rampant problem across all fields, but very prevalent in IT. IT remains unrealistic in their expectations, and worse, they are not taking responsibility for the consequences of these assumptions. An article for IEEE Spectrum by Robert N. Charette explores this pervasive problem.

A Sunshiny Sickness

“Hubble Psychology” is the “over optimism” disease and is often cited as the root cause for IT project failure. Basically this is the idea that if a project is kept alive, even if it is failing, it will receive enough funding to sustain life. Eventually patience and money runs out, and all that is left is a project that met defeat and wasted resources.

This overly optimistic mindset additionally affects decisions about when to make an IT system live. Deploying a system before it is ready is a huge risk that IT is all too quick to take on in their delusional state.

IT departments that are overly confident in their projects are often those departments that do not learn from their failure. A perfect example is US Airways switching its reservation system in March 2007 after they merged with American West airlines in 2005. The day the system went live, it completely crashed, and it took nearly 6 months to amend all of the damage it caused.

There is no industry that is free from this over-confidence plague. The UK healthcare IT system was a terminal mistake at 12 billion euros. Australia had a similar problem with their electronic health record system that cost them $A566 million.

In order to minimize any future blunders in IT, the Hubble Psychology is going to need to be addressed head-on. Individuals in charge need to become accountable for their overly positive thinking. This is not going to be an easy transition, but it is one that needs to occur. You can read the original article here: http://spectrum.ieee.org/riskfactor/computing/it/overoptimism-plagues-it-project-plans


Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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