Why projects fail? It’s all the business’ fault!

Maybe it’s because I’ve been on leave and enjoying the late spring surf of Cornwall but I’ve come to realise that it’s not all been ITs fault after all! Fundamentally, we’ve spent far too long blaming ourselves for the failure of IT to deliver on it’s promise to the business and I hereby declare that (in the majority of cases) the blame sits fairly and squarely with the business side of the house!

For years now we’ve talked of Business and IT alignment and that IT needs to step up and be more pro-active in aligning itself with the business. Well enough is enough – the business needs to realise its role in perpetuating this situation and needs to step up if it wishes to prolong its existence as a business at all! IT can only lead you to water, it can’t make you drink!

It’s all the business’ fault!

Well of course this is easy to say, after all it is what the business has said of IT for many a year already with little or no evidence to support the claim, except for a list of doomed IT projects as long as your arm! All the blame is put on IT with no real justification for this being the case!

In reality, most projects, don’t fail outright. As Standish continually report, challenged projects (those which are late, over budget, and/or with less than the required features and functions) still form the majority of project deliveries, averaging 47% of projects since 1994. Why is the blame here with IT? In many cases, I have seen projects deliver what they were asked to only for them to be deemed failures due to poor uptake by end users as the tools are too complex, limited, restrictive or that the solution overall fails to deliver the promised returns on investment etc! So why is any of this a problem with IT? Surely, this reflects more of a problem with the business and the requirements it imposes for the solution. The problem, I believe comes down to a reluctance for the business to truly look beyond what it does already and as a result is unable to unlock the potential of technology to deliver significant advantage back to the business.

Simply put, business looks to IT to improve/replace existing processes using technology. The consequence being that any solutions is dogged by legacy methods and practices, over complicated by convoluted human behaviours built out of years of ‘doing things in a particular way’. There is little wonder then that the result is difficult to use, maintain and yields little if any benefit. If anything, the delivery of absolutely anything is a testament to the skills of the delivery team, albeit that that their efforts were in vain!

The problem and blame therefore, for many cases, comes down to the business; by trying to simply recreate an existing process with technology simply does not translate effectively. Even though the business may hide its activity under a veil of process reengineering, it is really doing nothing more than tinkering at the edges of a process rather than rethinking the entire process itself. By really rethinking what it is trying to achieve and how this might best be done business can engage and empower IT much earlier and much more effectively ensure they are better able to leverage the true potential of new technology advances.

If IT needs to do anything then I would recommend re-orienting yourself towards providing a service much more aligned to business process reengineering – even if your organisation doesn’t want to work with you, then you can be sure that others will! Might even be a business opportunity in its own right!

So, dust off your copy of Reengineering the Corporation ( make sure you get the revised version!) and start to rethink,simplify and redefine your corporate processes!