Five reasons IT projects fail

Research suggests that large IT projects are at far greater risk of failure than smaller ones. McKinsey revealed that 17 per cent of IT projects budgeted at $15 million or higher go so badly as to threaten the company's existence, and more than 40 per cent of them fail.

However, regardless of business size IT projects are failing everyday – some are big budget and high profile and make the headlines, others receive less attention, but can be equally damaging to those concerned. But why and what can you do to prevent failure?

Partho Bhattacharya, MD & President, Invenio Business Solutions discusses the top five reasons why IT projects fail.

  1. Devil is not in the detail…

The most important factor in success of a project (or failure) is top management commitment in the project (or lack of…). It’s not the operatives but the top management who need to have steadfast focus in seeing a project is successful.

Intel’s CIO, Kim Stevenson, recently commented, “There are no IT projects, only business projects”. Whilst we may become engrained in the day-to-day intricacy of delivering IT that works, we should never lose sight of the bigger picture and the impact of successful IT projects on the business as a whole.

In the digital, hyper-connected age, IT underpins all that we do within an organisation and therefore has the power to transform business processes from the ground up. This means you need buy in at all stages from a variety of stakeholders. Map who these individuals are and ensure that they are a part of the process from the beginning and that their needs and job function have been considered. IT has the power to transform businesses but only if the employees are part of the journey.

  1. Project management, skills and experience

It’s no secret that smaller projects are easier to manage and control, but how can this be replicated into larger organisations to ensure the number of failing projects is reduced?

Having the right project manager and supporting PMO team in place is crucial. Too many managers and there’s likely to be conflicts and contradicting priorities, too little and resources will be stretched.

Ensuring project managers have the right skill sets for the role is also crucial. Great project managers will know how to bring together the right team of skilled individuals, and will be able to motivate and inspire even when the pressure is on. The same is true about the team members. The right skills in the right composition is key to project success. At Invenio, we are a team of dedicated SAP specialists so we can provide our customers with the expertise and insights they often don’t have internally – something they find invaluable.

  1. Inaccurate timings

Timelines need to be realistic. We’re all familiar with the IT project that was required yesterday, so by setting realistic time scales at the outset – including buffers for testing phases – then projects will be more successful.

It’s better to get it right first time even if it does take slightly longer. Rushed projects can cause hassle down the line so it’s about planning and future proofing your investment to ensure results and success is for the long term.

  1. Data & Interfacing

Often ignored at the start of the project is data that the new system needs to use. Often data from old systems is incomplete or inconsistent and this needs to be tackled from day one.

Data cleansing is time consuming, tedious and sometimes just not compatible with the system. Too many good projects fail because of useless data that are input and ultimately make the system unusable. If you use the wrong fuel in a world class car, it will inevitably fail to start.

Touch points between systems are another trap often ignored. Interfaces need to tried and tested from both sides thoroughly. A faulty interface can often be the death trap for a good implementation.

  1. Keep it real

During the planning and roll out of an IT project there are often unrealistic expectations around what will be delivered and when, by whom and for what reason. Along the journey too, there can be confusing or changing requirements.

Throughout the process, expectations need to be set and reassessed every step of the way to ensure there are no surprises. Total transparency between the partner and the customer is absolutely essential. Through building close relationships with suppliers they can become partners on this journey to ensure full visibility from day one. This will also allow a value added service to be provided.

Choosing a supplier that allows for flexible contracts will enable greater ability to adapt and change along the way, it makes the process easier and ensures projects are delivered as expected achieving the goals set out at the beginning.

Too many IT projects are failing unnecessarily, so businesses need to choose a partner that can best support the needs and requirements of the business. A partner who can ‘hold their hand’ through the early stages, minimise implementation drama, provide expertise and go above and beyond to make the project a success.

Partho Bhattacharya is MD & President of Invenio Business Solutions.