How people Fail Technology Initiatives and Blame Technology

March 29, 2018
Despite huge monetary and human resource investments in IT projects globally, most of them have registered dismal performance and success rating./Courtesy

, Nairobi, Kenya, Mar 29 – According to a 2014 PwC Report titled “Project Management: Improving Performance, Reducing Risk”, only 25pc of companies successfully complete all their projects, 57pc of projects fail due to a breakdown in communications, while 39pc fail due to lack of planning and resources.

Further, an International Data Corporation report of 2009 observed that 25pc of Information Technology projects fail from the word go, 20 to 25pc do not provide a return on investment, and as many as 50pc of them require substantial rework to succeed.

Whereas the definition of a project failure could vary and should be treated on case by case basis, an undertaking (technology project or portfolio in this case) that experiences extreme overruns in budget, is way out of schedule, does not meet expected quality yardsticks, and does not deliver intended value to the client is a failure by all means.

Despite huge monetary and human resource investments in IT projects globally, most of them have registered dismal performance and success rating.

Another analysis of results from 845 IT projects conducted by Gartner Research points out that 42.5% of projects did not deliver all benefits; 44% had budget overruns, while 42%were not delivered on time.

Clearly time, budget, scope, risk and quality are important project aspects that are also benchmarks upon which success is assessed and quantified.

Closer home and more recently, majority of corporate institutions that have experienced unsuccessful deployment and roll out of technology initiatives could relate with some of the following causes of failure: Lack of project ownership and stewardship from top leadership, failure to involve and engage all stakeholders from initial project phases, poor project planning and adherence to plan, lack of risk monitoring, under-estimating or ignoring change management and “soft” people aspects, weak project methodologies, and of course lack of skilled and competent project team members.

A combination of some or all of these factors would be a direct ticket to a failed project if not checked and corrected early enough.

Besides the above high level causes of failure, other risk factors expose projects to failure and project managers should correct or escalate early enough. These could include unclear or undocumented project objectives, scope creep in the course of projects, ambiguous requirements, or stakeholder conflicts. Clearly, majority of these causes of failure are not technical, but people-related issues.

Technology projects are aimed at driving business and must therefore be successful by meeting the cost, schedule, and scope and quality criteria.

They must have a business case with viable and quantifiable expected gains to the enterprise, need to be well planned, and executed with the organization in mind.

IT initiatives should be visionary and a key pillar of an organization’s strategic plans. They cannot be the preserve of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) alone, but should be steered with active involvement of the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) with regular updates to the Board of Directors or the respective committees.

There are numerous project management toolkits to guide assignment of roles and responsibilities to define involvement of various stakeholders. The RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed) matrix clearly outlines various stakeholder roles and responsibilities.

All projects and technology initiatives need to be aligned to the organization’s strategic objectives. This should be through a clear and documented ICT Strategic roadmap.

This roadmap outlines the role of ICT in sustaining and extending the vision and mission of an organisation. IT spending, budgeting, organisation and projects are key aspects of an ICT Strategy which should then be aligned with the overall organisational strategic and business processes to allow buy-in and acceptance by all other stakeholders.

It is clear that technology initiatives do not fail people and businesses, people fail technology initiatives by operating in silos, not engaging non-technical but key stakeholders, and lack of clear ICT Strategies among other reasons.

As such IT projects end up under-funded, unsupported, unappreciated, and even underutilised after roll out. Technology must be seen as part of a larger ecosystem with other interconnected components like people, processes, data and regulations.

With proper planning and methodologies, stakeholder involvement, engagement of subject matter experts and the guidance of documented ICT Strategies, deploying and benefiting from ICT initiatives should be as easy as the proverbial ABC…

~Jackson Nginya is an Assistant Manager at PwC Kenya Technology Practice

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