Bad leadership causes failed IT

Summary:IT failures continue to plague organizations across virtually every industry. Poor business leaders who don't possess the skills needed to manage change effectively have created this mess.

Bad leadership causes failed IT

This post was written by guest blogger, Mike Kavis, a senior enterprise architect. Mike describes how the roots of failed IT projects lie in management and leadership rather than in technology.

IT failures continue to plague organizations across virtually every industry. Poor business leaders who don't possess the skills needed to manage change effectively have created this mess.

There are countless articles about failed IT projects, ranging from outsourcing failures, SOA failures, technical architecture failures, and customer service failures. I outlined 10 reasons why large IT initiatives fail in a previous post:

  1. Poor Communication
  2. Underestimating or ignoring impact of change
  3. Lack of Leadership
  4. Lack of strong executive sponsorship
  5. Poor project management
  6. Poor Planning
  7. Trying to do it cheap
  8. Lack of technical knowledge
  9. Lack of sound business case
  10. Poor vendor management

This list boils down to three categories: technology, business, and people. You can probably count on one hand the number of folks that you've come across who excel in all three areas.

Most large business transformation projects fail because IT leaders don’t acknowledge, or at least underestimate, the impact of change on the workforce. These managers focus entirely on technical issues while failing to address the human side of change.

Driving change successfully requires creating a sense of urgency, communicating a clear vision, and addressing WIIFM (what’s in it for me) at all levels. Leaders must identify change agents throughout the company to battle resistance, while remembering success is about the people and not the technology.

Leaders often make a lethal mistake by not aligning technology projects with key business drivers, which is precisely why so many Service-Oriented Architecture and Enterprise Architecture initiatives fail. Both SOA and EA are long term strategic initiatives requiring many resources and a great deal of funding, which only worsens alignment issues.

When IT is not aligned with business drivers, IT makes poor architectural decisions that nobody on the business side will want or understand. Consequently, the business won't invest in these initiatives because they see no apparent benefit. This is where IT leaders must learn to speak in financial terms that the business will understand and appreciate.

Most IT failures are due to a team's inability to embrace changes needed to implement new technology. Nonetheless, leadership frequently points the harsh finger of failure to technology, which is simply the wrong place to look for solutions. No wonder IT failure rates remain so high!

The next time you see a major project fall apart, remember it's not the technology that failed but leadership that didn't measure up.

Topics: Developer, CXO, Enterprise Software


Michael Krigsman is recognized internationally as an analyst, strategy advisor, enterprise advocate, and blogger. For CIOs and IT leadership, he addresses issues such as innovation, business transformation, project-related business objectives and strategy, and vendor planning. For enterprise software vendors and venture-funded star... Full Bio

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