Why do IT projects struggle or fail?

Written by Simon Eady
Published on 20/9/2017 - Read in about 4 min (685 words)

Why do IT projects fail?

I am sure if you ask that question to ten people you will get 10 different answers, or at the very least a wide variety of reasons. The product chosen to deliver the solution was a poor match, the product was implemented incorrectly, the PM sucked, the Vendor gave no support, insufficient training material/resources, poor interoperability, the list goes on and on.

One issue I have observed from time to time on my travels is quite different from the above listed examples. In fact, (and this is my personal observation and opinion) the real issue can be hidden under the reasons listed above.

So, what am I talking about? I am referring to human nature, self-preservation, fear of the known or unknown, preference for another solution/vendor, I think you get my point.

I have seen many projects where it is quite clear the product was not miss-sold, was a good fit, where the support and implementation was solid, the PM was on point and so on. Yet the project limped along for “reasons”, where all the problems, issues or objections that cropped up were simply individuals finding anything that would help justify or protect their position or opinion.

Now I am fully aware this is very hard to quantify, is very subjective and in many cases I understand why this happens, we have a basic need to survive, or feel valued. If some hot new technology comes along that makes a portion of what you do day to day almost redundant you can feel threatened and depending on the workplace and culture you are operating in this could be grim news indeed.

Stepping back, you could easily say, said people need to up skill, they need to change, they need evolve, and of course you would be right. The IT industry is always changing and marching forward. However, what I have seen is that not every organisation moves anywhere near as fast as the industry would like you to think. Yes, change is coming (and so is winter) but in many places the wheels barely turn. So, when change does indeed arrive it catches the staff off guard or unprepared.

Now I am not going to spend time on whether person A or B should have up-skilled or stayed relevant, everyone is personally accountable for their own path and the level of effort they are investing in their career and skills. What I want to ask is, how do we as professionals address the issue above when we come across it?

One way I have found that works at least to some degree, is to work with and not against the teams and or individuals, but absolutely not calling them out on it in a public forum. The very reason the masquerade is occurring is because of no desire to talk about it or be exposed.

As a consultant, it is my job to help deliver my part of the project I am working on and if I suspect or perceive something like this is happening it helps me adjust my approach to the individuals or teams in question so that, bridges are built and options are given. I have seen and observed the mess that is left behind when people are directly challenged in a less than ideal manner.

Sure, there may be times when a direct approach would be necessary due to the project being fundamentally sabotaged or something equally unprofessional, but that would not come from me as the consultant that would be a management decision/action.

My point to all this is that often the human factor is not considered when projects are struggling it is assumed that something more mechanical is failing when actually there is a subtler reason.

I don’t have a magic solution, but I do know that a professional and human approach with eyes wide open will go a long way to help making the delivery of a project successful.

Finally, I am very interested in your experiences and opinion on this subject, so if you wish to, please feel free to comment.

Share this post