Only 69% of IT projects successfully meet the predetermined goals and business intent behind the project’s commissioning. A staggering 49% of projects finish later than expected, 43% exceed their initial budget, and 14% fail outright.
What is behind these figures? Why, if everyone is working together towards a shared goal, do IT projects suffer from budgetary issues, delays and in extreme cases, failure? These are the 4 most common reasons why IT projects are destined to fail before they have even begun, as well as troubleshooting tips for ensuring your IT project doesn’t fall into the traps.
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Flawed Initial Requirements:
The requirements will be the benchmark against which a project’s success will be measured. If the requirements are flawed, then the project is destined to fail.
If all parties are not involved in the requirement-making process, then often, the requirements can be inaccurate or unrealistic. A business team devising an IT project requirements with no input from the development team will not be able to administer realistic requirements. There may be inherent architectural flaws present in the requirements that the project will never be able to address.
Inadequate Documentation and Tracking Procedures:
If a project does not have clear documentation and tracking procedures laid out in the beginning, it can grind to a halt if unforeseen problems arise at a later date.
Consider, for example, one of the project’s architects leaves the project. Without adequate documentation and tracking information, their successor will have no possibility of picking up where they left off. Adequate documenting and tracking procedures will also alert the project manager to any areas of the project which require additional resources. They will also accurately indicate whether the project is on track to meet its goals, providing an early warning system for the project’s failure.
Failure to Expect the Unexpected:
In 2001, the US Census Bureau began an IT project to modernize the way censor officials collected data for the 2010 census. Instead of using paper forms, it wanted to administer officials with handheld computers to collect survey data.
However, the in-house IT development department experienced a string of unexpected problems that meant they were unable to develop the necessary technology. By the time the in-house team admitted defeat and the Bureau handed the project over to an external vendor, it was 2009 and the vendor would be unable to complete the project in just one year. The 2010 census had to be carried out on paper forms, costing the taxpayer an additional $3 billion in funding.
This is an example of how failure to adequately anticipate problems can derail a project. Unexpected risks cause 27% of all project failures. By adequately preparing for unexpected risks, both in budget and in time, projects would have access to additional resources to overcome unexpected problems that may arise.
Inexperienced Project Managers:
Project management is a highly specialized industry, particularly in the IT sector, and inexperienced project managers can derail an entire IT project. Someone needs to have a bigger picture. They need to identify problem areas that need extra resources, ensure the project remains on budget and is delivered within the time constraints.
The UK’s Department of Transport learned this the hard way in 2008. It’s Shared Services program was an IT project which began in 2005. It was expected to cost £55 million but generate £120 million in savings over the next ten years. However, due to poor management, a host of delays and unforeseen expenses meant the project ended up costing £121 million. By the end of the project, instead of saving the department money, it had cost them money.
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