Every project fails somewhere: manager

Project success and failure are often a matter of perception, industry players say

What percentage of IT projects fail? At InfoWorld’s recent SOA Executive Forum in New York, an attendee asked a group of panelists to estimate their success rate on projects. Specifically, he wanted to know how many of their IT initiatives had “failed on any level”.

Ed Vazquez, manager of SOA implementations at Sprint Nextel, planted his tongue partway in his cheek and came up with a startling figure —100%. His point: every project fails somewhere, either organisationally, in reporting, in creating the right architecture or elsewhere.

In other words, IT success depends on how you define it and on the metrics you establish. “Everyone has a different idea of success,” InfoWorld contribiting editor Dan Tynan says, adding that “no one really talks about it”.

Knowing this, IT pros can help their cause by locking down metrics early and getting buy-in up the line. Tynan found several examples of this approach, most strikingly at Hewlett-Packard, where every IT function is treated as a project that gets measured. Don Kingsberry, director of HP’s global programme management office, says that approach allows HP to quantify the value of its infrastructure, so the company can justify everything it does within IT.

Without those sorts of agreements, “you’re subject to the whim and caprice of the people around you,” Tynan says. “Every project becomes political and your history with the folks in the organisation plays into their perceptions.”

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