Every year, companies spend millions and
millions of dollars investing in technology projects with the
expectation they will improve operations, save money or otherwise
realize improvements in the organization. The results, however, indicate
that the intended outcomes are not achieved. How can it be that so much
investment produces so little improvement?
There is a lot of literature available
describing why technology projects fail. Among the myriad reasons are:
project status reporting is not sufficient, cost overruns, management
support is lacking - the list goes on. You may be aware that The
Standish Group periodically measures the success rates of IT projects in
their “Chaos Report”, and last April actually reported a decrease
in the success of these projects. In the 2009 report, only 32% of
projects were delivered on time, on budget, and with the required
features and functions, down from 35% in the 2006 study. What’s going on
Houston, We Have
The Chaos Report (http://www1.standishgroup.com/newsroom/chaos_2009.php)
outlines a number of factors that allegedly lead to technology project
success. I won’t spend time arguing the merits of the Chaos Report –
some of the findings are relevant and criteria can be quite useful in
determining what to manage and monitor during a project lifecycle. The
report shows, however, that the top issues causing project failure are
related to user input, incomplete/missing business requirements, and
lack of executive support – all issues related to identifying and
defining the business problem being solved by the investment.
While these criteria
are important, the Report misses the entire point of determining whether
a project is even appropriate and will address the business problem
before beginning work. Real project success is achieved when the outcome
of the project results in direct business benefit – whether
increasing revenue/reducing cost, improving operational performance, or
enhancing customer service. (Yes, even technology infrastructure
projects must address these business goals.) Without directly and
positively impacting one of these areas, no project can be considered
successful. And, the business problem being addressed and the expected
outcomes must be defined, documented and confirmed before
any technology selection or development work starts.
Contributing to Success
There are several
factors that directly contribute to the successful implementation of
technology, and organizations would be well served to consider these
factors prior to initiating any effort that contains a technology
be an enabler of business
of any technology needs to enable business to work better and smarter,
supporting the efficient accomplishment of a specific business function.
If there is not a clearly defined business problem/goal
under consideration, then there is no need for technology. The
technology itself should never be a reason to implement, and must
never get in the way of executing a well-defined, streamlined
While it seems silly
to think that organizations would introduce technology that will slow
processes down, this is exactly what happens in a number of
organizations. Someone decides that technology would make things work
faster and better, or someone sees technology that seems like it will
help. (Salesmen are very good at making their product appear very
attractive to the organization.) Before you know it, the technology is
procured and implementation has begun. This is completely backward from
the right way to address the problem!
often cause frustration in an organization – business processes may
actually slow down, users find a way not to use a technology, staff find
a work-around because the system does not function as needed, or the
system is never fully implemented in a production environment.
Technology should not get in the way of business – it should only be
there to enable business to function more effectively.
be appropriate for the function intended
technology must be appropriate for the business problem being solved. It
is very easy to overspend on technology – especially if you have a sales
person helping you decide what you require! Consider the job to be done,
and invest only in enough technology to accomplish the goal. It is not
necessary to implement an entire content management system when all you
need to do is scan and archive documents. Remember the KISS principle –
Keep It Simple, Stupid.
not be implemented without consideration of the business practices it
additional/upgrading automation supporting a business process, it is
imperative that organizations consider the impacts on the business
process itself. Particularly for those processes going from a manual to
an automated process, it is critical that a review of the process be
performed to determine whether the application of technology provides
the opportunity to perform the process in a different manner. The
introduction of technology into a manual process allows an organization
to completely redefine how that particular process can be performed.
Often, however, organizations simply end up automating bad process. The
result? They do bad things faster.
If you are
considering new technology, or an upgrade to existing technology – stop.
You must be able to clearly articulate the business problem you are
trying to solve, and consider whether the technology will allow your
organization to accomplish the impacted processes in a more efficient
and cost-effective manner. If you cannot do that, you have no reason to
Understand the Current
The Right Use of Enterprise