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

The ROI On Process Visualisation

Two more client examples on the power of process visualization.  But first, some astounding data on the potential ROI of making collaboration more productive.

The Collaborative Organization

The MITSloan Management Review just re-published the winning essay of the 2012 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize on The Collaborative Organization. It summarises a six-year research study covering all major industries. And it includes some astonishing data on the everyday collaboration inefficiencies that we’ve come to think of as normal. Two examples:

“We were struck by the sheer volume of the collaborative demands on people’s time: Many individuals spent 25 to 35 hours per week preparing for and engaging in collaborations with others.”

“If the collaborative efficiency of only 20 of the less efficient project managers and organizational leaders improved from below-average to average, it would save the roughly 400 individuals who interacted regularly with them up to 1,500 hours per week.”

Clearly, there is a huge latent ROI in making collaboration more productive. So how do you achieve it?

Well, creating a simple common language, and a single source of truth, must surely be a critical enabler.  And the only serious candidate as the universal language for collaboration must be end-to-end process. But it has to be presented in way that is visual, intuitive and engaging.

This week’s two client examples powerfully illustrate this:

In the first case, a wholesale distribution business, the client adopted Nimbus to remedy a failing ERP implementation.  Visualization of the end-to-end processes revealed more than a thousand specific business requirements. Even more dramatically, it exposed the fact that inventory management had been overlooked – the Supply Chain team thought the CRM team was handling it, and the CRM team thought the Procurement team had it in scope.

In the other case, a business services provider, the client adopted Nimbus to breathe life into its Operating Framework, transforming it from a sleepy and neglected 200-page Word document into process content that is of equal rigor but visual, engaging and helpful. That visualization is creating a collaborative framework that can drive standardization, performance improvement and assured compliance across its European operations.

In today’s complex and real-time world, there are enormous benefits in making collaboration more productive. And effective process visualization has to be central to achieving it.

Related Posts

20 Jun 2012    Process: The Emerging Global Business Language

28 Nov 2011    Cracking Complexity in Novartis

© Text Michael Gammage 2012