Information technology is one of the most desirable industries around, that much is clear. However, IT projects fail at a very high rate. The reasons for this are many, and this sample computer science essay discusses the many factors that play into whether or not a certain IT project will be successful or not.
Identifying the reasons IT and IM program failures
Historically, information management and information technology projects have failed at an alarmingly high rate. At a low point in 1994 only 16% of IT projects were deemed successful, and although the trend has been positive since then, a study in 2009 showed that 25% still failed completely, with 50% requiring material overhauls (Gulla, 2011). To identify the reasons behind failed projects, one must first define failure.
Joseph Gulla, a former executive IT specialist for IBM described a failed project as “any software project with severe cost or schedule overruns, quality problems, or that suffers outright cancellation” (Gulla, 2011).
The definition may not work for every situation, but it provides a basis for finding the causes behind project failures.
Definition of information technology success difficult to define
One of the earliest issues that may derail an IT project is a lack of proper planning. With success being somewhat hard to define, IT projects are often not catered to achieving any specific goals. Without clear purpose and direction, any endeavor is more likely to fall short of expectations. The expectations themselves must be defined and preferably written down early on in order to assure that the project is properly focused. A set of goals must be established along with a clear schedule in order to manage time more effectively.
Collecting any necessary data is important for assuring that the project’s goals are realistic, and can be achieved within a given budget and time frame. By assigning clear responsibilities to each project member, and recording progress, one can assure smooth follow through for a carefully laid plan. The recording process will also help with proper communication between teams and stakeholders. Proper goals must include stakeholder interests, as in some cases stakeholders are the final voice on a project’s success or failure (Kaplan & Harris-Salamone, 2009).
IT projects have a history of poor communications, either through infrequent contact or subjective project reports. Although complete objectivity is unachievable, there should still be an effort to avoid conflicts of interest. A project manager who is asked to review his or her own project is not likely to give it a scathing review. Assigning a proper and unbiased reporting system will ensure greater clarity in regards to a project’s status.
Importance of the IT project manager
Once a project is open and focused, the project manager becomes the central component in determining a project’s success and failure. Project managers have the ability to keep a project adaptable, design workflows, and ensure information management guidelines are adhered. Their importance should not be underestimated. Due to the value of stakeholder desires, projects must be able to properly manage change. Open communications means that stakeholders will be better able to observe a project’s progression, and may decide on necessary changes. Although proper planning will alleviate this issue, unforeseen changes must be prepared for.
Projects fail by attempting to make changes without a solid understanding of how the changes should occur while still keeping the project moving toward specific goals. Teams need to be aware of predetermined protocols that will guide members in accommodating any such changes. Managing change is not exclusive to a change in objectives, as a project’s inherent risks may vary as the project advances. IT endeavors are relatively unexplored, which leads to frequent risk reassessments as new information arises. A project that fails to consistently address changes in risk will not be altered in situations where risk reaches an unacceptable level (Gulla, 2011).
The project would continue to operate and draw funding, with a high probability of eventual failure, wasting both physical resources and time. Finances require careful monitoring as well. A project that accomplishes its preset goals will still be considered a failure should it end up vastly outside its intended budget. Proper financial management assures that projects will be able to adapt to any necessary changes while maintaining acceptable costs.
Project manager’s reliance on effective teams
A manager can only do so much and requires a proper set of team members who are catered to the specific needs of the project. IT projects are often started with a group of people who do not possess the skills necessary to bring the project to fruition. Team construction is crucial as IT projects generally require a varied skill set to reach successful completion. Sometimes people with a specific necessary skill will not be immediately available within the company. These teams require constant reinforcement and employee motivation in order to succeed.
In such cases, project management may select a suitable employee from an outside source, or offering the necessary education as a part of the project’s schedule. Changes in the project’s objectives may call for additional members or educational phases, and it is up to the project manager to insure that these changes are properly accounted for. Including some experienced members on a team helps in alleviating issues of maturity and adaptability (Gulla, 2011). Experience leaves a team better prepared for the inevitable changes an IT project will face and provides mentoring for the team’s newer members.
Customer satisfaction and IT project success rates
The lack of an important final product causes IT project failure simply because creating a product that fails to satisfy its users is worthless. Predetermined goals and methodologies for achieving those goals help a project make continues forward progress. Unfortunately, the progress may not be aimed at a serviceable end. A project that avoids all the pitfalls of construction will still be deemed a failure if it does not meet end user requirements (Yeo, 2002). The relatively recent appearance of IT as a service means that there is less available information to base a project’s goals upon.
Many IT projects fail because they attempt to fill a need that does not exist or approach a need from a poor direction. High rates of usage for an end product are often misleading when considering a project’s success. Usage varies greatly and is based on some factors that are outside a project’s actually usefulness, such as obligation or a lack of alternatives. User satisfaction is a better indicator of project results and using said statistic helps in avoiding unforeseen product failures (Yeo, 2002). The workability of a project is not a guarantee of success, and avoiding topics that do not generate sufficient interest is crucial in creating a worthwhile product.
Causes of client dissatisfaction
Causes of IT project failures are widespread, and even as time progresses and IT comprehension improves, projects continue to face many underlying problems.
As early as 2009, members of the American Medical Informatics Association listed “communication, workflow, and quality; the complexity of information technology undertakings; the need to integrate all aspects of projects, work environments, and regulatory and policy requirements; and the difficulty of getting all the parts and participants in harmony” (Kaplan & Harris-Salamone, 2009) as reasons for project failures.
Nonetheless, specific core issues plague all IT projects, allowing for some overarching improvements that will be beneficial in almost all situations. The lack of proper project planning is cited as the primary reason for project failures (Yeo, 2002). Projects can avoid this issue by making sure all relevant parties are involved in the project development process. IT projects need thorough analysis before they are undertaken, as issues involving budget, risk, and stakeholder interests are sure to arise. Focusing on specific end results is especially important for IT endeavors, and project planners must be wary of projects that expand well beyond their intended scope.
Failure in communication is one of the IT industry’s weakest links. Most IT technicians are not efficient at communicating, and this causes the client-customer relationship to break down. On top of this, IT departments are dependent on digital communications. Relying on technology has lead to a decline in communication within the IT departments because it separates the team from the client.
Government support for IT projects
In line with IT projects continuous rise in popularity, the government has given significant backing to IT advancements in the health field. The 2009 U.S. stimulus package allotted twenty billion to health information technology. With such a massive budget, the country hopes to make large strides in its health IT infrastructure, improving on the costs and quality of health care. Various health plans are being expanded to include Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) or Pay for Performance Initiatives (p4p), which rely heavily the advancement of electronic health records (Kaplan & Harris-Salamone, 2009).
Unfortunately, initial reports have not been stellar, as the “United States National Research Council advised that nationwide deployment of health information technology would not achieve its goals unless it provided health care workers and patients with support for decision-making and problem-solving” (Kaplan & Harris-Salamone, 2009).
Like IT projects in other fields, technology endeavors in the health industry face issues with user integration. The recent appearance of IT has created a significant knowledge gap between those who are educated on the topic and those who are not. Government interventions to implement IT need superb planning before the allocation of funds, due to the massive scale required for health advancements. Such planning was not undertaken prior to the implementation of funds in the U.S., and similar programs in Britain and Denmark are experiencing delays. IT projects require careful construction and coordination, and current government intervention does not acknowledge the issues continuously cause projects to fail.
Project managers need to make sure that when issues do arise, there are specific protocols in place to handle such changes. Assigning a suitable project manager is crucial, with project management being the third most likely cause of project failure (Yeo, 2002). Likewise, creating the proper team is vital to insuring success, and accommodating the many challenges IT projects face. Making sure a team contains, or has access to all necessary knowledge provides the best foundation for team efficiency. Open communication between the project team and stakeholders guarantees projects move in accordance with stakeholder preferences.
To avoid unnecessary revisions, stakeholders must take care to discuss their opinions communally and agree upon any changes. Communication is also crucial for project managers and their project teams. Clear responsibilities make members accountable. All involved parties require some form of recurring contact, to insure that needs are being met and the project is moving according to plan. Some IT projects fail simply because IT projects are known to fail at a high rate. Once all the preparations are complete, belief in the project becomes an important factor in projects success.
Kaplan, B., & Harris-Salamone, K. (2009). Health it success and failure: Recommendations from literature and an amia workshop. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732244/ (Kaplan & Harris-Salamone, 2009)
Yeo, K. T. (2002). Critical failure factors in information system projects. International Journal of Project Management, 20, 241-246. Retrieved from www.elsevier.com/locate/ijproman (Yeo, 2002)
Gulla, J. (2011). Seven reasons why information technology projects fail. IBM Corporation. (Gulla, 2011)