Essay On Failing IT Projects

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Failing IT Projects

Business environments in the 21st century are characterized by complexity and acceleration of everything from communication to production methods. There exists an old-age saying that states “we can do anything we want, but we cannot do everything we want.” This can be said to be the classic conundrum that almost all firms face. Organizations across industries are often challenged to deliver an increased number of projects as well as programs while at the identical time being able to maintain a flat or even at times decreasing budgets and resources. It is vital to understand that a project is a complex, one-time effort routine that is often defined by budget, performance, and resources. Project management is a set of tools, knowledge and techniques that when applied helps in the achievement of three main constraints of scope, time and cost. Based on literature, 52.7% of projects are often not able to complete on time, and they are over the cost and 31.1% of the projects are not fulfilled on the scope. This paper is going to examine at the postmortem examination of failed IT projects and understand why they often fail. There are in most cases several early warning signs.


The Mastery of Risk often distinguishes modern times from the past. Therefore, by humans understanding and measuring risks and their consequences, modern humans no longer perceive the future only as a whim of the gods and consequently they believe that they have been empowered to transform their world. However, the IT project management despite the fact that it deals with modern technologies can be described as being increasingly immature when it comes to the mastery of risks. There exists recriminating data year after year that shows that about 20% of IT projects are often canceled before completion and, in fact, less than a third are often finished on time and within the budget.

It is critical to note that many IT projects that often fail have symptoms long before the failure comes and these can be described as ‘early warning signs’ of trouble. The Early warning signs often provide the much needed indication of the manifestation of risks and consequently an assessment of a project’s propensity to future difficulties as well as the failure.

Literature Review

The project team, the customers, the suppliers and other important stakeholders can all provide a source of defeat, however, the most common reasons for project failure are all rooted in the project management process itself as well as the alignment of the IT within the organizational culture. In fact, according to Research that was carried out by (Cushing, 2002), the respondents identified estimation mistakes, unclear objectives ad goals and a change of the project objectives during the project as a key factor when it came to project failures. Poor planning is one of the main reason for IT failure (Pinto & Mantel, 1990). There are times where the IT managers are not given the opportunity to plan because of pressure that come from the senior management. Therefore, there are times where the IT project is on its way before it has even been clearly defined. In such cases, people see preparation as a waste of time as they believe that the time that is spent on planning can be instead be done on something else ‘more important’ (Pinto & Mantel, 1990). Most large IT Projects are often planned these days. However, that is not enough. There are often milestones that exist, and the problem is that the work often continues throughout each milestone. Therefore, there are cases where the implementation starts before plan completion and this in most continues through most of the consequent testing. Detailed plans can be said to be another problem that leads to the failure of IT projects. This is for the reason that the managers do not have enough knowledge to make detailed plans (Pinto & Mantel, 1990).

Every IT project often involves some degree of risk, therefore, not doing an explicit risk calculation can be said to be one of the major problems that come with project planning (Brock, 2003). In major IT projects, the managers do not know what level of risk they are dealing with when they are making a plan, and this is mainly because they have not set up the necessary processes and technologies that are often required in order to inform and calculate risk.

Glaser (2004) argues that sometimes the goal of a project may be to partially clear due to poor requirement assembly when it comes to the classification stage of the project. The definition of clear requirements for a project can often take time as well as loads of communication; however, sometimes the goals and the objectives can be unclear because the IT project can be said t lack project sponsors that have experience to describe what is really required. The presence of many goals and objectives is also another issue when it comes to the failure of IT projects. The objectives ad goals need to be clear, and there is also a need to ensure that there is direct and honest feedback on the progress of the report.

(Brock, 2003) Argues that as a project that can be said to be of significance has to have a number of stakeholders. It is critical to understand that these stakeholders often have to contribute resources if at all the project is going to succeed and in most cases they have to take away resources from lower priority activities in order to so. There are often many demands for resources as there is the resource available. Therefore, if the relevant stakeholders are not engaged and committed to the success of a project, the in most cases it is about guaranteed that the project will not get any resources and attention that it required in order to deliver the project within the timeframe provided and o budget. One warning signs that can be used is when the key project stakeholders do not participate in a major review meetings, and it often signals that they are not engaged into the project as they should. When this occurs, the project manager often finds it difficult to get participation and the necessary resources that are needed for project success.

The weak commitment of project team can be described as a factor that leads to the failure in a business. The delivery of the originally promised project scope requires a lot of concentration and hard work; it requires dedication, hard work, and hard choices (Jones, 2004). The project team members that have a weak commitment to the project scope as well as the schedule can at times find other worthwhile activities that they can work on. There are times where it can be argued that indeed sponsors have imposed unrealistic budgets or schedules. There are times where the project team may not have the skills or even the resources that are necessary in order to enable success.

The project objectives at times may also encounter the personal interests of a member and regardless of the reason, it is important to understand that weak commitment to success is just about a certain to result into being late, going over the budget or event at times not delivering the promised scope of work (Philips, 2006). When they are not dedicated, there are team members that can be said to lack the requisite knowledge and skills. This risk often engages the team member’s lack of requisite knowledge and skills. The risk directly addresses the team’s ability to mitigate and handle product related risks such as complexity and novel technology. If the needed skills are not there to start with, it is important to note that the project management often needs to make sure that indeed they are acquired (Philips, 2006).

There exists other literature that dwells on the failure of projects because of process related problems. Lack of documented requirements and success criteria can be described as a thorn in the flesh when it comes to IT project management (Jones, 2004). If it is functional, and performance and reliability requirements are in a way not documented, then it is necessary to recognize that each project team member and stakeholder will have different expectation and assumptions about the project and this is because each participant is operating and working from a different mental blueprint (Philips, 2006).

Therefore, asking for sign-offs on the requirements documentation can be said to be important as it forces differences in expectation as well assumptions to the surface and they can be able to be resolved in an easy manner. There is a need for the project to have every person oaring towards the same direction, if not the project will automatically go under. The projects that have undefined success criteria by definition cannot be able to succeed (Jones, 2004). The stakeholders should be able to provide resources, as well as support for the project, and make sure that the objectives and benefits have been articulated. IT projects that have undefined success criteria can be said to be doomed to eventually disappoint.

Communication breakdown among stakeholders can potentially lead to the breakdown and subsequent failure of the IT project. It is essential to understand that any significant project that has multiple stakeholders requires an extensive choreography of the different tasks and resources. The change over the life of the project can be described as being inevitable-the business environment, the competitor strategic as well as tactical moves needs to be communicated over time. If all the stakeholders in the project do not communicate in an effective and efficient manner, then it is possible that the project team will be automatically be pulled into different directions. Communication is important as it allows a consensus on the project success criteria and ensures that hope for the completion of the project on the time and the budget is on track.

(Fichter, 2003) argues that estimation mistakes when it comes to time and resource can cause project related issues. One common problem especially in an IT project is that the in the creation of the Work Breakdown structure, there is the creation of an assumption that time on the task equals duration. However, the time on task is the estimated the time that the task will have to complete without any interruptions, whereas the duration can be described as the time that the task can actually take to complete including the different interruptions that might exist. Therefore, when it comes to IT projects, the using of the time on task in order to estimate schedule can be described as one of the common mistakes that are made by project managers.


In this research, there was the use of both primary and secondary research in order to understand why IT projects are failing. The Research team searched relevant literature extensively in order to develop some of the views of other authors regarding the topic. It is critical to recognize that the objective of this research was to investigate why IT projects are failing. A questionnaire was devised in order to investigate the factors that contributed to the project success and also the factors that led to project failure. It is important to understand that the questionnaire consisted of two parts, PART A gathers information about the project title and their members and the second part labeled B gathered information on the assessment questions regarding IT project management issues. There was the use of eight questions on the project management practices that were rated based on a scale of 1 to 5. The questions were formulated in a way that they could be able to tell more about why IT failure occurs. The questionnaire covered items in the project management such as budget, time as well as scope.

The methodology however had some limitations. The first is that that the answers that were given by the participants could influence each other. This is because they were given time to interact, and most of them had been informed about what the research was all about. Therefore, prior influence before the answering of the questions in the questionnaire cannot be ruled out. Consequently, it is essential to note that this is an important limitation, and future research should strive to avoid it.

Expected Conclusions

Projects often fail mainly because of being unable to plan as well as estimate correctly and implement tasks according to a set plan. The respondents stated several factors that they argued was integral in IT project failure. They can be summarized into three main points, the planning and estimation factor, the implementation factor, and the human factor. The planning and estimation factor was described by most of the respondents as the main reason for the failure of the IT projects. This factor often refers to the initial costs as well as the schedule estimates that are not revised when more knowledge becomes available as the project progresses. There are also instances where the plans are often not used in the correct manner to guide the project forward, and this often makes the project to fail.

These second issue that was identified by the respondents was the implementation factor, and it encompassed project scope changes, the incorrect use of project methodology, as well as major changes when it came to testing and requirement. There were also inspections that were poorly done. The final factor that was the human factor, and it stated that there project managers that were not trained enough to acquire the necessary management skills. There were also some managers that had the information, but they were not able to apply and put the theory of the project into practice. It is critical to recognize that poor communications can be described as one of the human factors that could potentially cause the failure of a project. It is important to note that there exists a section where the project can be described as challenged. The challenged projects are those that were completed but were over budget, over time, and they did not in any contain all the functions and features that were originally required. It is important to understand that in regards to the successful and challenged projects, there were good special skills of the project managers, while in the case of the failed projects, it showed that the project managers had only fair skills.

There were, however, some researchers that had a unique perspective and although their significance level in the research can be described as being low. They argued that the Project manager’s new role has been instrumental when it comes to the failure of IT projects. The project manager’s function can be said to have shifted, and they are expected to take on additional responsibilities above the scope that they had before. The role has evolved over time, and there are new trends that are infringing on the project manager’s core job description”. It is essential to realize that the fundamental, core job description currently remains management as well as the monitoring of the project scope, the communication between groups as well as the motivations that exists to drive delivery. However, project managers are currently being forced to be supervisors. In IT projects, they are the ones that are managing solutions as well as applications and also the managing of the software developers. Therefore, it can be argued that the project managers are being asked to take on so many responsibilities to the extent that their job descriptions are getting blurred. Therefore, this one of the main reasons according to some of the participants, as to why there is a failure in the IT projects.The table below describes the responses that were given by the participants in regards to what caused the project to fail in detail.

Project Impaired factors % of responses
Incomplete requirements 12.3
The lack of involvement from users 3.4
The lack of adequate resources 15.6
Failure of executive support 1.4
Lack of planning 30.5
Technology illiteracy 20.3
Other 20.6

The three major reasons that the project failed can be said to be incomplete requirements, the lack of planning and technology illiteracy. Therefore, with the ability to involve the users and for them to capture their requirements completely and correctly, the chance of success can be said to increase in a dramatic manner. It is important to note that some of these factors are changing over the years and consequently, there is a need for research to be conducted in these areas. There is a need to conduct cases study on some projects in one of the methods that the researchers can be able to investigate and also analyze new findings when it comes to this area. Therefore, the conducting of a case study on the different project is important, and it can provide more insight when it comes to project failure.

In the other category, there was risk management. This is perhaps one of the most under-reported areas of IT project failure. In many cases, project risks are often not analyzed, identified and mitigated. Even in cases where risk can be said to be an active part of the execution process, the rigor that is often devoted to this area is negligible. Too often, most of the problems are often addressed in a reactive manner, and it causes schedules and budgets to be exceeded. This is in many cases results in schedule slippage, budget overruns as well as excessive staff overtime and burnout.

The best practice is to utilize an integrated as well as proactive risk management approach for all the project efforts. This is important as it develops risk management plan and the education of the entire project team on the benefits of performing risk management. It is necessary to integrate as well as identify the risks to scope, schedule and cost. Additionally, the maintenance of a risk log and also the making of data available to all the reports and self-service portals help tremendously.

The issue of performance management can be described as getting a great deal of lip service and yet there is very little that is understood. The lack of project performance measures often leads to all parties having what can be described as little visibility into where the projects are and where they should be at that time. As a result, it is important to understand that troubled project is often not highlighted in time for the remedial action and appropriative corrective measures that are not identified, and this leads to poor product and service quality.

The issue of clear logistical support cannot be underestimated. Logistics are also called chain management that is the central area of a project that needs to be well structured to improve customer satisfaction and control the cost within the project. One of the main problems of the project is less than optimal system of logistics. Having optimal systems of logistic reduces the costs while still improving or maintaining customer satisfaction.

Therefore, stems of logistics should be improved but before doing that it would be important first to examine the design of the current logistics and the modules through which they are designed. The primary aspect of these systems would be in integrating the individual logistics as well as flow of information. Before improving the logistics, it would be important to understand customer requirement, the targeted competition of the product, opportunities and gaps that are within the project and the current position of the project in term of profit making (Kreowski, Scholz-Reiter, & Thoben, 2011).

The first steps would provide gap analysis as well as opportunities from internal and external business perspectives. Therefore, the plan for the required improvement is designed to close the gaps. First, one has to implement the phases. This is after clarifying the goals of the project. After this the process is redesigned in a different process meant to service strategic objectives intended to close the gap.

Project gap analysis is supposed to be made based on the functional requirements. This comprises of decisions like functions that are performed within the project and where the functions are outsourced. Again based on the required system, the system that exists can be reconfigured , a new system tested and then the new system inter phase should be written.

This is followed by training the employees of the new inter phase or system that has already been reconfigured . The employees should be made conversant on the function of the new logistics and also taught about the goals and objectives of the new system. Depending on decisions among the leaders on whether to incorporate the new system, in the projector outsourcing, a logistic partner should be selected to work on that activity. Primarily the partner is supposed to be elected on the basis of performance that part requirement of integral logistics.

Finally depending on the process, individual situation, and the nature of the IT Project, the system can be phased in or it can be implemented .It will be of great importance to implement measures and systems that are effective that can monitor the performance as well as identify the opportunities required for improvement. The approach gives the project methodology that has clear milestones as well as decision points that would assist in focusing on the Project’s efforts that would reduce the risk, focus on efforts and improve efficiency towards having great impacts on the Project. Finally, it would be important to note that the changes will keep repeating due to changes in technology and thus the system need to be changed often.


In conclusion, there are several problems that occur, and they lead an IT project to fail. It is important to understand that respondents in the research identified estimation mistakes, unclear objectives and goals, and the projective objectives often change during the project as a key factor in project failures. Poor planning was at the topmost of the mistakes that led to IT project failure, secondly, there were unclear goals and objectives, as well as unrealistic time and resources estimates. The failure to communicate as well as act as a team might be said to be lead to problems. Further, inappropriate skills can also lead to IT project failure as the project managers, and the workers do not have skills that are required to ensure that the project runs smoothly. Further, there are those that have the information and the theory but they do not have the technological knowhow that is required in order to ensure that they implement the skills practically. The IT Industry can be described as the future of business, it is of the essence to understand that most businesses have decided to go online and this is part of IT. In fact, it can be argued that Information technology is currently running the world. For this reason, the IT Projects that are carried out need to be successful and they should be able to run in the best manner possible. For this to occur, all the factors that lead to the failure of IT projects should be looked into and work should be done to improve them.


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