The top five reasons most IT projects fail
New technology is essential to compete and grow. However, the pressure to keep up with the rapid pace of technology all-too-often leads to rushed IT projects that fall short of the mark or fail altogether. Matt Klassen of Cherwell Software explains how to avoid failure.
Studies over the years have consistently found the IT project failure rate to stand at a shockingly high 70%. Below are five of the most common issues that cause IT projects to fail.
1) Leading with technology
Many IT projects are doomed from the start because the driving force is the new technology itself, rather than the businesses outcomes. We often find organisations have opted to buy the latest and most impressive solution because it’s what their competitors have. This will often result in the implementation of new solutions that are a poor fit with the business’s structure and working practices.
Another side effect of a ‘tech first’ approach is for a company to invest in a solution that is far more expansive and elaborate than their business needs. This usually results in a very expensive new tool that will not be optimised or used efficiently.
New solutions should always be chosen to fulfil the business need, rather than attempting to fit the business to the tool.
2) Poor alignment between IT and the business
Arguably, the most important aspect of a new IT project is its positive impact on the business – after all, technology is meant to serve a specific business purpose. Pushing ahead with a new IT solution without ensuring alignment with business objectives and stakeholder needs such as employees, customers and partners will often lead to both disruption, and even resentment. Stakeholder input is also essential for proper risk management.
Maybe the most important aspect in ensuring alignment and positive business outcomes is referred to as demand management. It revolves around a consistent way to evaluate and prioritise project demand. When you get a project request, you need to collect data from the stakeholders on business impact, costs, scope, risk, resource requirements, etc. This data can be used to create a balanced scorecard that allows much more objective selection of projects based on the best ROI potential.
3) Overestimating available resources
With the rapid pace of digitisation, businesses often feel they need to get projects underway as quickly as possible to keep up with the market. This can lead to project deadlines that cannot be realistically achieved with existing resources. Simultaneously, there is often an imperative to minimise costs, which can lead to cutting corners and failing to ensure the right level of support is available. If the in-house ITSM team is handling the implementation, this will disrupt their ability to support everyday IT needs as well. Taking a ‘tech first’ approach can often lead to both budgets and deadlines overrunning as the implementation stirs up unexpected complications.
All projects should begin with taking stock of existing IT resources, and budgeting for additional support from the vendor, their implementation partner or another third party ITSM supplier, where required, to minimise disruption.
4) Lack of training and support
Alongside ensuring there are adequate resources to oversee the implementation of an IT project, businesses also need to ensure users are trained, and that they account for ongoing support. New IT systems will commonly have a few bugs to work out and can also often present a steep learning curve for stakeholders. Businesses should plan for at least some teething problems and ensure they have sufficient IT resources available to address any issues.
As with the implementation itself, this can often be best achieved with help from the supplier itself. Many vendors will offer contracts that guarantee ongoing support from their team or that of their implementation partners. Failing to take on additional help or at least ensuring the existing ITSM team has the capacity to absorb the extra strain can result in teething problems escalating into serious disruption.
5) Lack of real-time cross-project visibility
While implementing a new IT project may look simple on paper, the reality is often extremely complicated, particularly when the project will touch on multiple different business units or when multiple implementations are running simultaneously. Data is commonly scattered across siloed, legacy project management systems, which creates a fragmented approach and makes it unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming to update project statuses across the portfolio of projects inflight.
Having a centralised view of all IT projects will make it much easier to keep track of their progress and ensure they aren’t running overrunning deadlines or budgets. It will also enable project leads to keep stakeholders in the loop, keeping them abreast of any issues that might impact them.
How proper planning and management keeps IT projects on track
Most of the problems that routinely derail IT projects are caused by a lack of sufficient planning and preparation, coupled with poor management during implementation. In the worst-case scenario, these two issues will combine to cause the project to collapse entirely, potentially taking a great deal of time and capital along with it.
One of the most effective ways to address all of these challenges simultaneously is with a PPM (Project Portfolio Management) tool. This will enable the organisation to better organise its projects, ensuring that vital planning activity is undertaken properly and allow it to keep track as things progress and more easily make informed decisions.
With good planning and management processes supported by the right tools, organisations can buck the odds and ensure their IT projects succeed.