Why Are So Many IT Projects Successful?

It’s bizarre how many major IT projects are ‘successful’.

Imagine buying dinner for your loved ones at a restaurant where the service was always slow, the bill was usually way beyond the prices shown on the menu, and the dishes were less than half as delicious as you had expected.  And, 17% of the time, the evening would be so disastrous that it would threaten your marriage. Not sure that many of us would call that successful? But when it comes to ERP, that’s what people most often do.

A new survey on ERP implementations, published on Michael Krigsman’s Beyond IT Failure blog, records:

  • over 50% of projects experienced cost overruns
  • over 60% experienced schedule overruns
  • 60%  of respondents received under half of the expected benefits.

It’s another piece of evidence to add to the bulging portfolio marked ‘IT Project Failure’ (the root causes for which I’ve rehearsed elsewhere).

But it leaves the intriguing question: How can it be that 60% of respondents in this survey thought their ERP implementation was successful?  It’s not an aberration. The hard data and the shot-through business case may point conclusively in the opposite direction, but most often organizations define their major IT projects as ‘successful’.

Maybe it’s a mix of Stockholm Syndrome and exhaustion.  It may feel initially like a comforting embrace, but the SI relationship frequently turns sour (only 25% of respondents in this survey were satisfied with their implementation partner). As the project challenges mount, the client’s expectations plummet.  In the end, there’s relief that it simply finished. And at that point, the client is happy to draw a veil over its own shortcomings and declare success.

Which is understandable but a pity. There’s a colossal waste of resources going on here, and, as McKinsey has warned, maybe 17% of major IT projects are black swans that can threaten the very existence of the organization.

Related Posts

07 Jan 2013    Cloud Without Risk: Pie In The Sky

08 Nov 2012    IT Success: Don’t Let The SI Take The Wheel

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

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