IT Project Failure — executives asleep at the wheel

Laurie Orlov from Forrester has a great post about how inattention dooms so many transformational projects (here).  From her piece:

[T]here are many good ways to reduce project risk. And there are also guidelines on how and when to kill failing projects.  No need to belabor them.  But trumping all of these, in my view, is the go-to-sleep attitude of enterprise executives (maybe even including the CIO) as these projects proceed….

CIOs who let business executives off the responsibility and oversight hook, if they let them send underlings to meetings, if they provide a status and get no feedback, if the scope of deliverables is intergallactic, if development is not iterative,… are aiding and abetting [t]heir own project failure….

My experience is that CIOs get distracted by “strategery” and forget to focus on the basic blocking and tackling of project and development management.  Per my comment on Laurie’s post, CIOs who aspire to strategic archetypes of IT management (Laurie’s Forrester study is here, behind a firewall) get distracted because:

  1. They’re acting out according to an archetype they want to be, not what is required.
  2. They have a disinterest in building a solid foundation in core functions, so they end up ignoring, then fire-fighting, problems with utility functions like e-mail, voice, etc.
  3. They believe game changing initiatives have to be big, so none of them question a multi-year timeline.

Training and qualifying sponsors

For those who need to educate their sponsors, the approach of the UK’s Home Office might at least inspire your next efforts (here, the syllabus is here).  The content looks very meaty.

This approach may only work in the public sector — I’m not sure how many senior folks in my organization would sit still for this entire curriculum — but we see good results when we put even basic “management awareness” training in place. 

Hat tip: PM Forum News (here)

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