Survey shows many IT projects halted

Almost half of respondents to poll say they've stopped one

Nearly half of respondents in a recent survey say they've put the kybosh on an IT project, according to a survey by the Information Systems Audit Control Association (ISACA).

ISACA, an international organisation with more than 75,000 members in 160 countries, focuses on the governance of technology within corporate enterprises. It conducted the survey online between April 23 and April 30 and got 386 responses. Marios Damianides, a past international president of ISACA and the IT Governance Institute, says he is surprised that 43.3% of those surveyed admitted to pulling the plug on an IT project prior to full implementation. "I did not expect the numbers to be so big," he says.

Close to 30% of those surveyed said they killed off an IT project because business needs had changed. About a quarter said the project was not delivering results as expected. Damianides takes this as a sign of maturation in the process of approving projects.

"The heartening thing is the fact that there is some governance in place," says Damianides, who is also an executive with Ernst & Young. "People are saying, 'Hold on a second, maybe we're not getting what we should. It's all good, because there are good decisions and good criteria for making them."

At the lower end of the scale, 14.4% said IT projects had ended because they were no longer a priority, while budget constraints ranked at a mere 13.2%. Only 6.6% said they had ended an IT project because it did not support the business strategy.

"What these statistics mean is there is alignment up front, meaning the decision-making process works well," Damianides says. "The learnings from the statistics are that there should be a more robust scorecard built ahead of time. You have to have goals that are immediate or project-focused, that allow you to make decisions on (whether to) stop or go."

Andrew Hughes, principal of Sierra Systems Consultants and a vice-president of a Canadian ISACA chapter, says the survey findings are a good reflection of where things tend to go wrong at the project delivery level.

"You have to be focused on discovering what the actual requirements are, as opposed to whatever the initial statements are and then doing the change management," he says. "Most the organisations find it difficult to express requirements in a way that can be delivered on. Part of the project management exercise to get that change scoped in."

ISACA and the IT Governance Institute often suggest managing projects by using governance frameworks such as COBIT. A more recent set of guidelines, Val IT, offers practical approaches to delivering value on IT projects.

Damianides says Val IT is already being used at big companies and allows them to catch potential problems within IT projects before they start or as they progress.

"You don't need to kill the project if it's not going to deliver what you thought it was going to deliver," he says. "The issue is, do you change it, modify it, invest more in it?"

ISACA conducted the survey by email and based the results on 386 responses. The results are considered accurate plus or minus 5%.

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