Monday, September 21, 2009

IT Project Failure - The Root Causes behind every Reason for IT Project Failure

Simply put, IT projects fail not because of what we do, but because of what we haven’t done!

Conventional wisdom suggests that we can identify a set of reasons for project failures post implementation. As Michael Krigsman highlighted in his blog "Six types of IT project failure", classifying the reasons for failure can often illuminate Root Cause for project failure. However, in my opinion by simply categorizing failures often leads organizations to incorrectly believe that there were only one or two aspects of their project that caused it to fail.

My research has identified that the genesis of project failures is in fact an organization's pre-implementation strategic decision making (or lack thereof). The symptoms or reasons for the failure are easily classified but the root cause is often buried because it becomes almost impossible to unravel the causes after a protracted period once the project has failed.

Furthermore, I have found that simply identifying reasons for IT project failures can in itself lead to "Scapegoating" of the parties that were responsible for that element of the project (e.g. the Project Sponsor, Vendor or Project Manager ).

In the case of the Project Sponsor, mentioned in Michael Krigsmans blog, they need to be given the authority and accountability to make project decisions otherwise they will not remain actively and positively involved in the project. If they are not actively involved (with skin in the game), then they are just the "Go To” person, (which can be a pretty unenviable and arduous position to be in). This is just one example (not assigning accountability) of how poor strategic decision making by the organization before the project is initiated puts IT projects at risk.

"Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day" Jim Rohn.

More often than not, what I have found is that the "Root Cause" is generally embedded in the organization as an underlying and fundamental flaw in its pre-investment strategic planning and pre-implementation strategic decision making processes.

These are executive decisions that provide the strategy for How the project will commence and What and Who needs to be included or involved.

Many of the reasons for IT project failures that I have identified, and that Mike Kavis has covered extensively, can be eliminated by addressing these key strategic decisions at the outset of a project, because the potential Root Cause will thereby be identified and addressed before the project has even begun.

Kind Regards
Sarah Jane Runge