Avoiding the failed IT project

Avoiding the failed IT project

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled "Why some firms de-engineer" profiled a series of failed IT projects that cost their companies significant dollars and manpower. Many organisations have experienced similar problems implementing network management platforms.

As a result of these failures, the article suggested, the pendulum is swinging away from big-ticket IT initiatives and toward more modest, focused projects with a greater likelihood of success. If this movement does represent a genuine trend, then the bloom may finally be off the rose when it comes to the hype associated with how IT transforms the way organisations do business and how network management platforms fulfil users' requirements.

Estimates of IT project failure rates vary, but none are encouraging. Chief information officers surveyed this year by CSC Index estimate that half of the IT projects they initiated have failed. A Standish Group survey, also conducted earlier this year, found that 42 per cent of IT projects are abandoned. Probably the most discouraging estimates come from Gartner Group, which claims that over 70 per cent of network management projects fail to meet their original objectives.

The IT/networking industry is plagued by hype that has generated plenty of unrealistic expectations. Every CIO and IT manager fears the day that the CEO returns from a business trip with a head full of great ideas about how IT can transform the organisation.

What's missing is a structure and process to accommodate and evaluate these corporate flights of fancy, along with more realistic project plans to implement new technology in a methodical fashion. A surprising number of organisations still don't have a formal link between the IT or networking group and the end-user business units. The only interaction between the two groups is reactive.

Among those few organisations that recognise this problem, many still lack the process and project management skills to see their IT or networking initiatives through to completion.

Project management skills

Most IT and networking professionals are engineers who favour logical, step-by-step work. While this attribute is useful in ensuring the disciplined execution of a project plan, it falls short of meeting the real-world challenges to IT projects today.

Gartner Group claims the challenge of network management projects, among the most demanding IT efforts, is only 25 per cent technical. The other 75 per cent of the challenge is process-oriented or organisational in nature. Fitting the IT or network management solution into the business takes more than fitting the technical solution into the existing IT environment. Gartner suggests that every dollar spent on process improvements generates another four dollars in productivity improvements for the overall organisation.

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