Compelling Evidence

“This is not getting any better despite all the money being thrown at the problem”

Peter DuPre – MicroFocus 2010

Over recent decades there have been many post-mortem reports from academia, business experts and the UK Government National Audit Office (NAO), which identified the main causes of failed IT projects. Nevertheless little has changed in terms of project performance, except the escalating scale of investments and the fact that reported problems have had increasingly serious consequences.

Whilst Private Sector businesses generally manage to keep many of their ‘white elephants’ under wraps, we have all come across significant examples of IT project mismanagement and horrendous waste of resources in businesses everywhere, large and small. Public Sector IT projects, on the other hand, are subject to open scrutiny by the NAO, and much can be learned from the many published post mortems of major Government IT projects over the years.

Truly compelling evidence regarding the causes of failure can be found in those repeated reports by the NAO following numerous Government IT project debacles. Those reports followed a stringent forensic examination of events and their impact, and identified many issues, both managerial and cultural, that lay at the heart of those failures.

Yet in spite of the NAO repeatedly identifying the same issues over the years, there continues to be little improvement in overall performance, and the same problems continue to recur time and again as though those lessons from the past meant nothing.

Unfortunately the underlying truth is that the critical importance of many of those lessons has not been fully understood by those at the top in business and Government. They continue to apply huge pressures to achieve unrealistic and impractical change objectives, which are bound to cause major problems for the ultimate success of their business or public service change project.

The sad fact is that throughout five decades of IT stimulated business change, the change management process itself has not kept pace with technology innovation. If we are to turn this situation around, we not only need to understand where the main issues lie – as identified here by the NAO and many others – but also how to deal with them in a coherent and effective manner. We really do urgently need a new business agenda in the management of IT stimulated change in today’s evolving digital business world.

Typical NAO/OGC Review Conclusions

COMMON CAUSES OF PROGRAMME FAILURE

  • Lack of a clear link between the project and the organisation’s key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success.
  • Lack of clear senior management and ministerial ownership and leadership.
  • Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders.
  • Lack of skills and proven approach to project management and risk management.
  • Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps.
  • Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long-term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits).
  • Lack of understanding of and contact with the supply industry at senior levels in the organisation.
  • Lack of effective project team integration between clients, the supplier team and the supply chain.

Responding to this challenge not only calls for changes in process and procedure, but more importantly in the culture and power structure of the business management environment itself. This in turn calls for a new agenda for delivering e-business change, and that is what my book The DILIGENT DIRECTOR in a Digital Business World is all about.

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