Why Projects Fail

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Technology projects worldwide are costing companies billions of dollars more than they budgeted for, and almost half don't live up to the clients' expectations. Newspapers and business dailies trumpet few project successes but a massive number of failures. As projects grow larger and more complex with every passing year, their outcomes - both successes and failures - become fodder for the media and our competition. Unfortunately, project failures tend to predominate as they not only make sensational stories but also are far more common. 

What are the odds that your next information systems/information technologies (IS/IT) project will be delivered on time, within budget, and to user expectations? Pretty grim, unfortunately, if you dwell on the news propagated by IS industry analysts. META Group estimates that half of all new United States software projects will go way over budget (META Group, 2000). The Standish group says 53% of IS projects overrun their schedules and budgets, 31% are cancelled, and only 16% are completed on time and on budget (Standish Group, 2000). 

The mismanagement of projects to develop the geographic information systems that companies use to run their businesses has been going on for years and the situation has not improved. "The management of projects is still treated in a very amateurish way," said Nigel Kelly, a partner in KPMG's IT practices. 

For its study, KPMG surveyed the chief executive officers of 1,450 public and private sector organizations across the U.S. and Canada, and analyzed more than 100 failed IT projects. A project is considered a failure, according to IS industry analysts, if it was cancelled or deferred because it wasn't delivering its planned benefits, or if it had a budget or schedule overrun of more than 30 per cent. Bottom line is that there is an astonishing waste of money here. The GIS sector of the IS/IT arena is no exception - project failure, sadly to say is as prevalent in our business, also. Wow, what a project "horror scope" for you and I. However, the real message for you and I is not that a project fails, but rather why it fails. In analyzing these cautionary tales, business leaders can draw on these "lessons learned" to prevent similar fates in their own project ventures. An analysis of project failures, both publicized and unpublicized, shows that the principal causes for project failure can be distilled down to 4 fundamental reasons: 1.) Poor planning, 2.) Lack of corporate management support, 3.) Poor project management, and 4) Lack of customer focus and end-user participation. 1. POOR PLANNING

GIS evangelists frequently tout the cost savings, improvements in productivity and services, and market-share increases that GIS can bring to an organization. Why then, have some organizations that have gone down the GIS road found the process frustrating and the benefits elusive. According to Dr. Roger Tomlinson, who is widely recognized as the "father of GIS," "one culprit is often to blame - poor planning (Tomlinson, 2001)." 

Proper planning is a key project driver for success. The success of any organization's GIS implementation depends on thoughtful planning. Dr. Tomlinson states," without such planning, a GIS implementation can easily run over budget and still not provide any measurable benefits to the organization." Thus the formula for a successful GIS is to focus on strategic business needs and know, going into it, what you want to get out of your GIS. 

GIS project planning must occurs at two distinct times - at feasibility study time and during project implementation time. A. Feasibility Study Planning
A feasibility study typically is the response to some client-identified problem or opportunity. It reveals what is required to build a solid business case, allowing management to make an informed decision about funding or canceling the project. "To be, or not to be?" is the primary question a feasibility study answers. This primary question can...
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