Are major IT projects really more likely to fail than other business projects?

According to a major study by Oxford University’s Said Business School, major IT projects are 20 times more likely to fail than other business-driven initiatives because IT Programme/Project Managers are ignoring the unpredictable events of projects they are working on and are instead choosing to focus on the average performance of past projects.

The research analysed 1,500 global projects worth a total of $245bn, with an average cost of $170m. It found that large IT projects are on average 27% over budget and take 55% longer to complete than originally planned.

It has also been claimed that IT projects are typically complex and sometimes business users do not understand how a change will impact on other parts of the business or systems, multiplying costs and introducing delays. However, I believe that changes in project scope are inevitable as the project progresses and ultimately, the right experience must be brought in to manage these projects.

Food for thought:

1. Can the risk of ‘IT project failure’ be minimised by ensuring that the scope of a project remains stable and that every decision in the project is based entirely on business benefits?
2. Is it often difficult for a project manager to say no to a change in requirements from an executive such as the CFO, particularly as many project managers are contractors?
3. Do project leaders need to refrain from under-pricing projects from the start just to seek approval or win the contract?


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