Why Do Technology Projects Fail?

Recent studies continue to agree that technology projects fail at an astounding rate globally. More specifically, in some studies it was stated that over 70% of big technology projects fail. In the Standish Group report of February 2019, it was stated that 83.9% of IT projects partially or completely fail. Failure in this context means that a project does not deliver what was required within the agreed-upon time, scope and budget. According to the Standish study, only 16.2% of projects were deemed successful, being completed on time and within scope and budget. 

Projects are considered a failure due to a combination of reasons such as a lack of user input or project definition, incomplete or changing requirements and specifications, inadequate executive support, technical incompetence, lack of talent and culture problems among others. An organizational transformation mindset and technology adoption is a key pillar to unlock success in projects. Amazingly, even if many organizations embrace technology and integrate technological innovations, they continue not to adjust their culture to new conditions and make no technologically relevant choices in regard to their corporate values and practices. However, a company’s culture can strongly influence the ways in which innovative methodologies are leveraged and used to achieve success in projects within the organization. Thus, by leveraging new technologies, companies should at the same time enhance their organizational culture in order to survive in an ever-changing digital environment. 

It has been noticed that sometimes organizations’ leaders tend to set unrealistic project expectations in order to meet political agendas, but they do not take into account resources, talent availability and the interdependencies that exist between products (technologies and hardware), partners (vendors), processes and people, in order to deliver a successful project. One way to almost guarantee a successful project is to begin work with a clear project management plan and ensure that all involved stakeholders within the organization understand what is expected, in order to prevent communication gaps. An adequate implementation approach (whether waterfall or agile methodology) should be defined at the beginning and tailored based on the nature of the project. Project goals, objectives and outcomes should be clearly defined, and alternative scenarios and risks should be evaluated.

Where possible, companies should consider outsourcing the project management role especially for the big technology projects, in order to ensure and increase the chances of project success 

Finally, companies should use existing tools, techniques and methodologies that are available for delivering complex technology projects, ensuring that businesses cases and project definitions are well-defined, including project outcome metrics. This also minimizes scope problems by ensuring that unclear requirements are clarified and managed and a proper prioritization is established. By using these tools, techniques and methodologies the companies make sure that there is a proper internal and external resource management, that project management principles are followed, and a proper communication is established to all internal and external stakeholders.

Author: Wambui Mbesa, Chief Executive Officer, Netcompany-Intrasoft East Africa