The Top Three IT Projects Failure Reasons

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Projects fail due to various reasons. This article describes the top three reasons for Information Technology (IT) project failures.


Projects fail due to various reasons. One might be using a well-known project management software,The Top Three IT Projects Failure Reasons Articles a famous collaboration software, proved project management tools, an prominent project management methodologies and even well-known project management template but still even a well planned IT project may fail due to various reasons.

It is very difficult to describe the reason for the failure of IT projects. In general, reasons for project failures can be categorized into two major categories such as organizational level issues and project level issues. If a Project Manager has less influence on the project, the failure can be classified to Organizational level. If they have more influence on the project, one can categorize the failure under project level issues.

Let us discuss this imaginary project. The company ‘ABC International”, a financial institution wanted to provide more online features to their customers. Their IT department came up with a proposal which shows 5 Million US$ as a budget for this project.

Scenario 1: The company executives decided to allocate just 2 million for this project and requested the IT department to begin the work. The Project Manager, Mr. Bill who is assigned to handle the project clearly explained the situation to the management and asked them to release 3 more millions. But the management was not willing to address Mr. Bill’s concerns. If this project fails, I would put it under Organizational level category.

Scenario 2:  In the above example, the company executives listened to Mr. Bill’s concerns and agreed to release 3 more millions. Mr. Bill conducted a kick off meeting to begin the project, and started to work with the stakeholders to elaborate the project requirements. Somehow, he was not able to track the project progress well; he was not able to communicate well to the stakeholders, and he is not able to manage the scope changes etc. If the project fails, I would put it under project level issues.

Scenario 3: In the above example, the Company decided to give a piece of work to a vendor, and prepared a Statement of Work (SOW). The procurement department, stakeholders and the project manager prepared an incomplete SOW. If the project fails, this can be due to both Organizational and Project related reasons. But comparatively less number of failed projects falls under this category.

I should confess that I have not done any serious extensive research to identify the top three reasons of project failure. After more than 15 years of experience in the field of project management, I have seen few projects that were implemented successfully and yielded the expected results. Based on my experience and my colleagues’ experience, I would say many IT projects comes under “project level issues” category fail due to the following reasons:

Scope changes: As we all know scope is used to develop the deliverables and the work required to produce the deliverables. Scope changes are one of the major reasons for IT project failure. For example, let’s say a project manager is working worked with the stakeholders and finalized the scope. As per the current scope, the project will be completed by the end of December 2011. However the stakeholders wanted to get more additional items in October 2011, I’m sure most likely the project will fail. Hence I would suggest project managers to use a proper change control mechanism to manage the scope changes.

Unrealistic deadlines: Deadlines are very important when we talk about IT projects. Without a realistic deadline, a project will never succeed. One might be able to bring more people onboard. One might be able to setup an environment & tools for them to work on. But if an IT project does not have a realistic schedule, it is more likely to fail. Hence I would suggest project managers to develop realistic deadlines; share the same with the stakeholders and get their commitment for the schedule.

Not picking the Right Project team: Success of an IT project always depends on people more than processes. Without a right project team, there is no way one can complete the project successfully. In order to form a right team, the project manager needs to pick up the right people. If a project manager is forced to use few resources which they think are under performers, the manager will have to put out a proper training plan to train them quickly. If they are not really good, the project manager should re-negotiate with the management to get the right people for the project.

I think implementing an IT project successfully is not like baking a cake. One can’t follow a standard recipe with the ingredients such as these resources work for six weeks of development and a healthy dose of Project management to enjoy project success. It is because organizations are unique; people who perform those projects are unique, and the environment the projects performed are unique. Hence I would suggest project managers to keep an eye on these three reasons to minimize the risk of project failures.