Saturday, August 31, 2013

Is IT Project Failure due to the Decision Silos?

IT projects failure is the disconnect in expectations. 

An independent, international survey among IT decision makers in corporations in Europe and North America shows that more than 70% of participants have experienced the failure of at least one business-critical IT project due to conflicting decisions that had not been known during the original planning process. More than half of the respondents (51.6%) have experienced this more than once. Has it happened to you? What are the causes? How did you resolve it?

  • Why does such case happen? The survey articulated the reason behind of many IT project failures: "Major decisions are made in an isolated and divergent manner. According to the IT managers surveyed, a “keyhole” view of the processes involved—even those independent of IT processes—was a decisive factor in the collapse of major IT projects. Planning phases were extremely long—up to 180 days".  
  • There are many decision silos in the decision process – and the study confirms this. What has to happen in organizations is to connect decision makers across departments to understand the impact of their decisions. What kind of decisions did cause churn in downstream project units? IT planners and project teams often find it difficult to stay connected with the perspectives of all the decision-makers around them and incorporate them into their plans. 
  • IT projects failure is the disconnect in expectations. WHAT should be delivered? Making it simple, IT is delivering a project, while business expects IT to deliver a solution (including a change of existing business process, legal and financial aspects, marketing inside and outside of the organization ...). In such a case, IT is proud of delivering the item. Business is very disappointed about the delivery and asks for then other steps, IT is very disappointed about the 'sudden change of deliverables' and in the end, none wins and the project is called a failure. 
  • How to decide right via understanding decision levels and failure types? Mainly there are two levels of decisions evolving: The strategic level decisions which align IT investment with business strategy, and project governance processes to ensure effectiveness (doing the right things with expected result); as well as the tactical level decisions upon project management to ensure efficiency (doing things right, reducing complexity, cost efficiency., etc). The failure can be classified into fatal failure, mid-failure or miner failure; there are some good stories upon how to turn around from failure to success and the key point is: collect enough and effective data, which is one important step in good decision making.

  • Is Agile the right fix to such issues, there’s often an expectation mismatch between business and IT – while business never orders IT, but rather capabilities, they are disappointed when it is IT that gets delivered. Maybe even if it is exactly what they ordered. You might align on the strategic level, but when it comes to the operationalization, the strategic alignment often becomes paperwork and shelf-ware. Agility is surely an interesting approach, as Agile has three characteristics: Incrementalism, Iteration, and Improvement, but only if the dots get connected and stay connected throughout the planning and execution of the project. How do you keep track of the changes in an agile environment and connect them to the strategy. 
In order to improve IT project success rate, It is the mindset shift upon keeping iterative communication, cross-functional communication, customer satisfaction and faster delivery. And it is ALL ABOUT rapid feedback loops and minimizing waste, to reach the expectations all parties agree with. 


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