Forrester CRM analyst discusses IT failure [podcast]

Strong executive leadership and organizational transformation are essential determinants of successful IT projects. Any IT initiative that does not properly address these strategic points is doomed to fail.

Strong executive leadership and organizational transformation are essential determinants of successful IT projects. Any IT initiative that does not properly address these strategic points is doomed to fail.

I spoke with Forrester CRM, customer experience, and call center analyst, Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, to explore these issues. Click the podcast player, located at the top of this post, to hear our engaging conversation.

Natalie's 2008 report, Customer Service: A Keystone Of Your Corporate Revenue Strategy, includes an important timeline listing historical research regarding the impact of corporate culture and executive accountability on project failures.

The timeline graphic, which Natalie and I discuss in the podcast, is shown below. It strikingly demonstrates how little progress we've made in improving basic conditions needed to achieve successful projects.

If you care about strategic elements of IT success and failure, listen to this podcast. Here are several interesting excerpts (not a verbatim transcript) from the podcast with Natalie. The conversation was rich and substantive, so don't skip the podcast!

Why haven't projects improved over the years?

Companies haven't taken the people part of business seriously. They've learned a lot, but haven't really changed their behavior, so we see the same failures repeatedly. We think that technology suddenly makes business better, but not without organizational change management to encourage strong user adoption.

What role do software vendors play in causing IT failures:

During the sales process, some software companies over-promise and over-market their capabilities, without explaining all the implementation details required for customers to achieve the promised return on investment.

What's the system integrator role contributing in failures?

System integrators have a long-term business model based on projects going on and on and on; it's a little like foxes guarding the hen house. Completing projects quickly is not necessarily in the integrators' best interest. Many consulting firms went out of business because their old model of writing change orders and blaming it on the client no longer works. Customer pushback has kicked system integrators in the butt.

In this economy, C-level executives need to have confidence in the anticipated outcome before they will green light funding. Buyers are telling vendors and integrators, "Show me the money [ROI] and show it to me now."

Are you optimistic about the future of IT failures?

Change-related activities that can make a project successful often get cut from consulting statements of work. I wonder whether it will take another 100 years for companies to get real about the people stuff.

[Photo of Natalie Petouhoff from Forrester Research.]

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