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A look on how to fix and avoid Tech Project Failure
Winter of 2012
Robert Tyler Class
The Repercussions of Unsuccessful IT Projects
Edited: August 29th, 2016
Published: April 18, 2017
Robert Tyler Class, Graduate of Business Management, Guilford College.
This Research is for the CTIS Capstone under the CMIT Minor program.
Correspondence to this article should be addressed to Robert Tyler Class.
Contact: Robert Tyler Class through LinkedIn.
This term paper illustrates the effect of failed projects and the consequences they render. In the past, there has been extensive research about projects and how to make them work. However, this prior work is mostly how to properly construct and deploy projects, the common mistakes, and how to avoid these mistakes entirely. There is an underdeveloped subject originating from repercussions and consequences of the failed projects. What if a bank rolls out a new version of their iPhone app and it does not allow people to make payments or transfer funds for a week? This leads to consumer remorse, drops in stakeholder investing, and decreases in sales depending on the circumstance. There is a snowball effect that starts with the technology department of a company. Technology can make or break a company. This paper is here to discover the copious mistakes IT employees make, the common outcomes from these errors, and discover patterns that lead to success, failure, and employee termination.
Modern technology has evolved exponentially due to mankind’s ability to grow and improve. We have come so far that we have used to those tools to create combustion and travel in the form of automobiles. What has happened here? We have discovered a problem and implemented a solution, or rather developed an easier, more efficient way of achieving goals. We evolved. We would not be here today if it was not for innovation and creativity. This process of rebuilding is vital to the creation and discovery of new features and ideas. However, the probability of an idea coming to fruition is small. Most innovations start off as a basic idea that fails, and is rebuilt or terminated. These projects affect the consumers, employees, stakeholders, and potentially, the lifeline of the company involved. Projects that fail can result in negative connotations, however it is important to pick out the positives and use those for second-generation innovations; to understand the consequences, we must understand IT projects, how they fail, and develop strategies to avoid ineffective results.
Before we figure out the consequences, we must understand IT projects. What is an IT project? An IT project is a temporary endeavor creating a solution, basically a product or service, which is new or enhanced functionality to hardware or software. Some of these solutions even become their own thriving businesses. These are normally planned, performed, and executed by employees within the IT Department of a business. Projects are one-time activity that assumes a beginning and an end. Time, Money, and Functionality can restrain IT Projects. Examples of IT projects include the details in programming a video game, constructing a network, or redesigning a website. They are as small as installing drivers for Bluetooth mice for an entire department of identical Microsoft Tablets. With business and money in mind, projects often strive to gain an advantage over other technologies. This sense of competition often leads to disruptive technology, technology that replaces an obsolete technology. Kenneth Laudon’s example of a disruptive technology is Internet music services. This service renders repositories of downloadable music on the web with acceptable fidelity. The losers of this project were record label companies and music retailers despite previous successes. Today’s Winner is tomorrow’s loser in IT. The internet music business’s project was a wild success and recreates what we know as consumers and users. However, not all projects succeed or benefit business. But what is a failed project?
A failed project is considered such when it does not reach its goals and there is a very high failure rate. According to Laudon, the Standish group consults, found that only 29 percent of all technology investments were completed on time, on budget, and with all features and functions originally specified. He also states, “Projects are measured by achieving objectives within the variables of time, cost, and scope” (522). Management can decide to reapproach troubled projects or terminate them. The Project team must figure out if it must view its variables and decide which to cut to have a successful project. If a project is too ambitious then the team must decrease the scope. This recreates what the project is. Ricardo Vargas states that the variables have a huge influence on the success of a project, and below his illustration demonstrates how variables will change the outcome.
These three variables are the main culprits in deteriorating projects. However, many projects fail from small mistakes that are made all the time. Research shows that many projects fail for the same reasons. R. Ryan Nelson and Meredith Levinson both have in-depth research that highlights the common mistakes.
Underestimating the Workload.
No Stakeholder Buy-In.
Projects lack the right resources with the right skills.
Projects do not follow a structured management process.
Do not track changes to scope, time, and cost.
Lack up to date data.
Do not meet deadlines, do not push back unreasonable deadlines, schedules are incomplete.
Lack of communication.
According to Nelson’s chart of common mistakes, projects likely to fail more often than succeed or at least be riddled with mistakes. (Appendix A) Nelson argues that poor planning and estimating/scheduling are two of the biggest factors causing failure.
IT project failure is detrimental to anyone involved with the project because IT department keeps the gears moving within a business. Failed projects can affect team members, end users, employees, consumers, stockholders/investors, and the company itself. An instance of a failed project in which hurt different stakeholders occurred recently is with Microsoft’s operating system upgrade model. Microsoft announced in the past year, with the upcoming Windows 8, it would need to cut off support for Windows XP and Office 2003 on April 8th, 2014. This has convinced many small companies that use of Windows XP 2008 professional series to change operating systems in 2013. However, once the Windows 7 workstations connect to servers, they find that many display options are rendered inoperable unless you are the administrator. This becomes difficult because the only logical fix is let everyone become an administrator. Users could not change display sizes within the control panel. This was simply an unforeseen Active Directory or Group Policy error, but it was still time unwarranted by the upgrade sale. Incompatibility has become a sad standard with even Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports and cables changing constantly. It is clear a change from competition to collaboration is necessary for the sake of the end user.
The Workforce can be flustered by failing projects. Employees will often be confused and find themselves with the inability to complete work. Initially, Employees may often complain and this can affect morale. It causes departments to lose communication and creates tension. If the IT department deploys a dysfunctional project, it can create a workforce that is so angry and disgruntled, that the workers will quit, go on strike, or speak negatively about the IT team or the company. Connor Cheryl shares that employees will also:
Create irreversible damage to the brand.
Alienate your most valuable clients and cause very expensive mistakes.
Leak important company information and participate in internet “bad-mouthing”.
Stop potential hires from joining the company.
Cause others around them to be upset and disengaged in their work.
One specific necessity to integrated tech systems upgrades would be customer support data available to entry level employees. Government Policies should require that there should be separate departments for Address, Credit card, and/or social security. All it takes is one nasty phone call or email message to push a customer service representative over the edge to commit wrongdoing. Our culture is aware of the hacking, privacy, and identity theft, but we are not doing enough about it. This leads to a necessary change to coalition and responsibility of two or more employees for proper documentation.
However, consequences do not just stop at the employees, they also affect a lot of the consumer decisions. When a project closes and produces a final product that is insufficient, consumers will know. Initial consumers will find dissatisfaction and remorse. This can lead to poor reviews and word of mouth. Poor project implementation may also invade a consumer’s privacy or rights, whether it is poor planning or security.
A failed project can hurt a company from many different directions, and can ultimately suck a company dry. In fact, research shows that failed IT projects still outnumber successes, often with serious immediate and short-term consequences. The consequences can include liquidated damages paid by vendors, IT managers and developers losing their jobs, loss of the promised benefits of a new or updated system, and at least temporary reluctance on the part of senior management to approve new major investments. Resentful employees, irate consumers, and poor management will lead to profit loss. The company must worry about job terminations, overspending, decreased sales, and legal issue punishments all due to poor execution of an IT project.
This Project Failure creates a project snow ball effect; the longer the project fails or shows problems, the larger the problem becomes. Procrastination also makes the problem harder to solve. The more time it takes, the more is expected from the endeavor. This effect correlates Murphy’s Law research and Newton’s Law of Motion. Murdick has developed a chart that coincides with this understanding. (330)
Typical Communication Breakdown
Designer asks user what information is needed
User is not accustomed to rigorous self-analysis and cannot adequately express information
Designer works out a plan and gives it to programmer
Designer converts what he thinks he heard from the user into flow charts and trappings of system design, altering information needs in the process
Programmer implements system
Programmer incorporates his own ideas and interpretations, further altering user’s needs. Final results frustrate the user, who becomes hostile, or worse, sabotages the system
As you can see, one problem or mistake leads to countless mistakes which ultimately ends with disgruntled clients. The designer will also be furious as he or she outsourced the idea and expected the subject matter experts to undersell and overachieve his or her own goals, not their own.
The project snow ball effect can also apply to all Stakeholders. If Shoe Wholesale Company A’s IT department deploys a failing project for their inventory system. The Inventory system can not show current information. Assuming we are following Murdick’s chart and the users are the sales department, the sales employees and IT employees are now hostile towards each other. The company loses revenue as the IT department tries to rebuild the project. Management begins to look for new jobs. Poor annual reports lose investor interest which further puts the company under. The company ultimately downsizes or files for bankruptcy. Many employees lose their jobs over the mistakes of a few. Clients must now find shoes somewhere else. This is a genuine example of the ongoing effect of project failure.
Now, with the pertinence of project success in sight, teams must strive to better their development of any project. However, something must change. Strategies must be made and proper planning is vital. Moving forward with how project teams can appropriately create projects, listed are some necessary charts and examination techniques:
Before Action Review
After Action Review
Congruence models for a business creates a big picture break down of key elements of the company (
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/congruence-model-business-10554.htmlRoot). Information processing, mission statements along with core values, production, and outside influence are all factors to identify where necessary changes should occur. Along with the congruence model, Before and After Action Reviews will help communicate and achieve goals. Items that are included in these procedures include
What are the intended results?
What will it look like?
What problems will occur?
What have we learned from the past?
What will we do differently?
When will this project be finished?
What was expected to happen?
What went well and why?
What can be improved and how?
These processes define the time and communication expectations beforehand. (Wisner). It is wise to seek out and share complete management knowledge. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail – John Wooden.
The SWOT analysis is widely popular with all business planning. This simple chart includes internal and external benefits and threats of any direction. More precisely, it evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved with a venture. This helps project teams make decisions as well as determine which goals are attainable; the SWOT analysis is a key factor in establishing a direction for a team. While this is more for management and executives, this can be adapted to any productive team.
Partnership with Intel Computers
Strong Brand Loyalty
iTunes Store Revenue
Strong R&D Department
Revolutionary differentiated product
Charismatic Visionary CEO
Product life is very small
Weak presence at enterprises and governmental business
Market share is far behind
Less overseas Market presence
Content provider relations
High Investment in R&D
The electronics market growth rate is high
Downloadable music is very marketable
Increase in worms and viruses on PC – Windows
Switching in technology is very fast and costly
Software and hardware is more expensive than others
Imitators, substitutes, new entrants, suppliers
MP3 player dying market
Highly competitive markets
Rapidly changing technology
Free content availability
Another great method similar to SWOT is the feasibility study, which is also known as the TELOS analysis – in which the acronym stands for technical, economic, legal, operational, and scheduling respectively. This study also focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of a project. This allows decision makers to properly calculate whether to go through with the plan if there is not much risk. In fact, a feasibility study answers the question, “can we pull it off as well as be successful?”.
Pre-Production planning is essential as we are now on the fourth concept. When developing, it is important to look at the Critical Path Method, which is the longest way to complete a task. This algorithm is used for scheduling a set of project activities and elements. Along with the Critical Path Method, analysts typically create a PERT chart – Project Evaluation and Review Technique. This works in conjunction with BARs. PERT is a method to analyze the involved tasks in completing a given project, especially the time needed to complete each task, and to identify the minimum time needed to complete the total project.
Despite all the different teams within the web site design service, the PERT chart has illustrated that the site will be complete at 46 days by establishing the critical path. This is great for having a better understanding of time and how to gauge it. However, all the strategies are great for planning ideas and carrying them into fruition successfully. It is highly recommended that any team take up these methods while planning or creating projects.
The 4th important addition to proper planning is the Gantt chart. This process is a “In-Process” management technique as opposed to previous methods. This bar chart helps a team gauge the work load in terms of time. This method greatly reduces the stress of deadlines as well as encourages organization and proper scheduling. Gantt charts will show who is responsible for which jobs and objectives, and it splits up certain tasks by when they should be completed. This proper planning with eliminate many mistakes made along the way of finishing a project. Gantt Chart (Gannt.com)
A Smaller Gantt Chart (Gannt.com)
We have defined how a project can fail or be on the path towards failure; however, it is important to fix what has been broken. It is key that leaders pick up the team, and learn from the mistakes. Dean Shepard shares the steps towards moving on from project failure and learning from it in his works.
Shepherd believes that the mistakes draw us closer to perfection, and if we learned from our mistakes we can prove better results. T.C. Williams concurs and the following illustration shows us trimming the fat, getting rid of what does not work, can still render a winning project.
Projects are ideas in motion for strategic and beneficial outcomes. Not every project pans out and often they fail epically. Mistakes can alter the outcome from what is it intended. The repercussions from a failed project can affect all stakeholders involved with a company including but not limited to consumers, employees, and the company itself. It is important to evade the mistakes; otherwise one minor mistake can put a company out of business. It is imperative that leaders and project teams exercise appropriate manner in constructing and developing a project. Using a Pert chart or a SWOT analysis will benefit a company highly, and there are no repercussions to that. However, presentation should lean more on to the end user. Listening and understanding the feedback of the customer is crucial to business. Not all voices can be heard, but it’s important to gather statistical data to solve the biggest problems right away. Perfectionism could quite possibly be the main culprit to bearing untimely results. Project success comes from planned organization, expert communication, creative implementing, and relentless execution.
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What is a Gantt Chart? May 16th, 2016, from http://www.gantt.com/
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R. Ryan Nelson’s Classic Mistakes in IT Projects
The Repercussions of Unsuccessful IT Projects 1ing from it in his works.