Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Art of Scapegoating

Have you or someone you know ever been the scapegoat for a failed IT project? If so read on. This may give you a déjà vu feeling.

And as the saying goes, “A good scapegoat is nearly as welcome as a solution to the problem”!

This is often a sorry consequence of failed or derailed IT projects. Everyone is responsible for the project and no one is accountable for its outcomes. This issue will become even more apparent as the project progresses. Over a period of 1, 2 or 3 years people will either leave the organization/project or will otherwise forget who was actually accountable for having made the critical investment and planning decisions in the first place. Time has a tendency to blur the facts! So what can project sponsors do when they get that sinking feeling that an IT project is heading into deep waters? Hunt for scapegoats! (shhhhh people don’t readily admit that this is what actually happens). Who wants to be held accountable for a train wreck of that magnitude? Nobody – hence the scapegoating!

Unfortunately, organizations typically identify vendors, project managers and CIO’s as the obvious parties (read scapegoats) responsible for under-delivered and over-budget IT projects.
In actuality, the causes generally lie in the camp of the C-Level, senior executives and presidents themselves. Why? Because strategic decisions to invest in IT systems are always made at the top level of an organization. They should instead be asking themselves where they messed up and analyze whether, why or how their IT investment and project decisions were under-analyzed, under-scoped, under-supported, under-communicated or under-trained. Did they make the critical strategic project decisions and follow through with an execution strategy to establish key project procedures or not? Information cannot be expected to be communicated via osmosis or hearsay.

Ask yourself who was responsible for identifying and collecting project requirements and were they empowered and accountable? Were they the most appropriate people or just the most senior or worse still – self-appointed?

The other key question that vendors and customers should be asking themselves is “did we assume that extensive requirements were collected and correctly documented from the most pertinent and pivotal parties?” Most of the time both parties just assume that the important task of requirements gathering has been diligently carried out (which is where the slippery slope begins and scapegoats are sought out).

Kind regard
Sarah Jane Runge

7 comments:

Prem Kamble said...

Valuable thoughts on causes of IT failure and success. There are some very down to earth observations in your book "Stop Blaming the Software..". Unfortunately, there is widespread ignorance today about IT Management concepts. Please see my thoughts on failed Software projects. I have also penned down some fundamental causes of misconceptions about computers and computer projects at my website.

Sarah said...

Hi Prem

Thanks for the feedback. I just read your blog and thoughts about the causes for IT project failures and it seems that we have both come to the same conclusions. Insightful.

Take care
Sarah

Prem Kamble said...

Your idea of Profiling a company for IT readiness is great. I wonder if you have a way to profile CXOs and senior executives for their IT Awareness, their ability to manage change and to manage the resistance to change. I have profiled an excellent COO who was the best IT-related- Change manager I have seen in my career. It has been my experience that there are people who understand computerization and there are those who do not, and whether they do or do not has no relation with their education, qualification or position.

Corporate Profiling for IT Project Success said...

Hi Prem

Corporate Profiling profiles people to a degree by ensuring that the appropriate people are involved, rather than self appointed people who think that they should be involved but have no idea. It also identifies potential pockets of change resistance before the project commences so that action can be undertaken to manage it before it becomes an issue.

Kind regards
Sarah

Project Management Software said...

The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived project constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time, and budget. The secondary—and more ambitious—challenge is to optimize the allocation and sintegration of inputs necessary to meet pre-defined objectives.

Project Management Software said...

have gained some interesting experience with good results and I wanted to share that in a few upcoming posts.

Sarah said...

Hi Project Management Software

Sounds very interesting - I would really enjoy hearing about them, so please keep me informed. Let me know if I can be of assistance.

Kind regards
Sarah