Back in the 2001 time frame, the Office of Government Commerce (National Audit Office) in the UK established a program for avoiding large-scale IT failures. The program, called the Gateway Process, established a series of evaluation milestones, or gates, against which a project must be reviewed over its lifecycle. The goal of the program is to foster an increase in the success rate of risky and expensive IT projects.
The National Audit Office recently released a report describing the state of affairs related to IT project failures in the UK. Unfortunately, the study suggests that
IT projects continue to be poorly planned and managed, leading to an ongoing series of expensive failures. The entire report makes excellent reading, and is a serious attempt to examine IT-related case studies, with the goal of understanding the causes of both failure and success. Here are some quotes from the executive summary:
Many of our Recommendations focus on the need for greater stewardship and accountability within individual government departments and across Whitehall more generally. Beyond this, the Committee of Public Accounts has emphasised frequently the need for greater public transparency and accountability in departments’ performance in managing their programmes and projects and, in particular, that the results of OGC Gateway Reviews™ should be published. At the time of publication of this report, recent decisions by the Information Commissioner in support of disclosure were the subject of legal appeals by the Office of Government Commerce.
At the earliest point of any IT-enabled business change, the department should be able to demonstrate that it has considered and addressed the nine Key Questions set out in Figure 2. (see image below)
The report clearly suggests the causes of IT project failure lies in management shortcomings rather than in faulty technology. Failures result when managers do not possess the requisite skills, hide problems, are in denial, and so on. This report takes a big step toward exposing common reasons for IT project failure.