Poor PM practice leads to huge failure rates

A third of all money spent on software is used to repair botched projects, says Atlantic Systems Guild principal and author James Robertson, with billions spent each year reworking software that doesn't fit requirements.

"My guess is that this money is spent on repair, which is usually repairing things that were not right in the first place," Robertson said.

"Sometimes these projects fail simply because half way through, the business people could tell that the software was not going to fit the requirements, so they abandon the whole project."

Robertson, with his partner Suzanne Robertson, has just released his third book, titled Requirements-Led Project Management, which attempts to demonstrate how links between requirements and project success can be exploited.

"What I've observed over the years is that when a project fails it is usually because the requirement gatherers didn't get the requirement right," Robertson said.

"The book's intention is to point out that you can identify requirements, and when you know these requirements you can feed these into project management.

"All the other aspects of project management, like organization skills, personality, resources, they're not going to be effective if you don't know what you have to build."

Deborah Weiss, Meta Group program director of enterprise planning and architecture strategies, said up to 72 percent of all IT projects are late, over budget, lack functionality or are never delivered as planned.

"The reason most IT organization projects fail is symptomatic of poor project management discipline," Weiss said.

"When explored further, the root cause is attributable to poor project estimating techniques, ineffective project team structure, a lack of client project participation, unmanaged scopes and taking on large-scale project risk without any contingencies."

However, IDC research director of software and services, Tim Sheedy, said failure is a very subjective term.

"I think that when you look at these failures, 95 percent of the time it's a project management issue," Sheedy said.

"The managers of these projects set out the requirements at the beginning of a project and they get it wrong."

Primavera director of business development Steve Keys said failure can mean a lot of things ranging from time to cost and quality of the end product.

"I think it's a question of execution. More attention needs to be paid to setting up a project definition at the very beginning," he said.

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