Why do IT projects screw up or seem to screw up? Often it is not IT’s fault. Often it is.
We’ve all heard all manner of excuses ranging from software development as a cottage industry in desperate need of the construction industry’s project management rigour all the way through to vendor incompetence.
Chad Dickerson (page 16), the CTO of sister title InfoWorld, laments that many IT projects actually succeed in increasing productivity, but are still seen as flops by poorly trained end users who resent the change. Paul Glen (on page 21) traces problems to the concept of “gathering requirements”, which in his view is a bogus approach built on the premise that “requirements” exist as complete entities just waiting to be harvested.
Fellow columnist Frank Hayes observes that IT is also driven by politics, fads, personal preferences, IT sales people who close friendly deals (such as, best price but bad choice), and the propensity of the industry to flip-flop on technology specifics (integration headaches — again). Add in the perennial hassle of integrating with legacy systems, and we should instead be asking how do so many projects actually get done on time and on budget.
Senior journalist Julian Bajkowski has been following the troubled Australian Customs Service’s (ACS) Integrated Cargo System project for Computerworld (see page 1). He’s heard explanations including the project bouncing through too many sets of vendor hands (who undercut themselves on price); the “Bigger than Ben Hur” scale, “mission critical” scope creep, ACS’s lack of in-house development expertise, low morale with the CMR project now regarded as a career killer for contracted project staff, interference by politicised bureaucrats with little knowledge of IT, and the legislatively driven “forced fit” that CMR will have with the freight forwarding industry.
For the private sector it all comes down to appropriate IT project governance. Some companies have this nailed down. But highly complex and politically mandated mega public sector projects — that’s another story.