62 percent of IT projects fail. Why?

Why do IT projects fail, and is there anything we can do about it?

CIO.com cites a Dynamic Markets survey of 800 IT managers, reporting that 62 percent of IT projects fail to meet their schedules. Other data:

  • 49 percent suffered budget overruns
  • 47 percent had higher-than-expected maintenance costs, and
  • 41 percent failed to deliver the expected business value and ROI

This wouldn't be so bad, CIO.com notes, if it weren't for the fact that the numbers haven't appreciably improved over the past decade. In some cases, they've gotten worse.

Why? Why do 25 percent of all IT projects get canceled before completion? CIO.com cites two reasons:

  1. IT departments don't take into account the time required between design and development and
  2. QA is not adequately understood and budgeted into projects' timelines.

One other thing that I've seen fairly often is a disconnect between the IT department and the business owners who sponsor IT projects. The two often have very different ideas as to what they want.

From the business owner side, they are often more enamored of demos than technology. This is sometimes good but also just as often bad. One customer of mine has had its Alfresco implementation delayed by a year because a three-month project with a proprietary product has taken over 15 months. The proprietary software that IT is attempting to deploy looks great in demos, but is a pile of potty to deploy.

Other times, it's the IT department that leads with technology and overlooks business owners' requirements. I've had this early in my company's product lifecycle when it showed great promise but little polish. We had a customer attempt to deploy the product for something it was ill-equipped to do...and the business owner rejected it.

I'm not sure what the solution is for this disconnect, but I suspect it's the cause of more IT project failures than most others. Any suggestions?

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Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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