Do IT projects really fail all that often?

The Standish Group and others publish scary statistics showing very high failure rates for IT projects – with these at considerable variance with my 50+ years of IT experience. The problem seems to be the definition of “failure” and the definition of “project” with both being far too broad by the scary statistic folks. For a real project, that is one with a careful definition, an engaged sponsor, and a plan and a budget … along with “success” being defined as “the customer liked what he/she got” … my experience suggests a success rate of 60% or above. For some CIOs, I’d guesstimate a success rate of 85% or higher.

If you define as a “project” something without a plan, budget,or sponsor, you will have a Self-Fulfilling-Prophesy of frequent failure. So, my advise to those who read those scary statistics is … to avoid following in those footsteps, don’t step into them at the get-go. Instead, work your tail off at the start … supper careful definition and scope that everyone understands and agrees to, an engaged and highly visible sponsor, a realistically achievable plan and budget, a user+IT team comprised of the best darn folks you can get your hands on. Given these, you will succeed; without these you will fail … and just add to those scary statistics.

Yes, I’m cheating. I’ve defined a project with perimeters that insure success. Is that wrong or unfair? Aren’t we all supposed to succeed when we start something? Including as “projects” things that are doomed from the get-go just seems dumb …


Yet another Inflection Point?

Are we really at another IT Inflection Point? If so, is it the 5th or the 12th or ??? For that matter, what is an “Inflection Point?” Let’s agree that an “Inflection Point” occurs when something of a technical nature leads – in a short period of time – to strikingly new business challenges and opportunities.

If we accept that definition and if we look around us and see [1] – the internet of things, [2] – the Cloud, [3] – “Mobile”, [4] – Big Data (and all that surrounds it), and [5] – “Identity” and the various challenges to that ill-defined word … if we consider that these five things are all happening at the same time, then we do seem to have a rather considerable Inflection Point.

What will this Inflection Point” lead to? FIRST – those companies (in virtually all industries) that seize the opportunities this presents … will survive and thrive; those that don’t, won’t … and the latter will happen pretty darn fast. SECOND – the role of the CIO in the “survive & thrive” companies will become increasingly important, so much so that many such CIOs will move upward to become CEOs.

The above thoughts are based on a lunch conversation yesterday at the infamous “Lion & Compass” restaurant in deepest Silicon Valley. My lunch partner was the CIO of a large, prominent Silicon Valley. It was she that listed the five elements that I have described above … and I think she pretty well hit the nail on the head.