Roundtable: How to Recognize and Prevent IT Project Failures

Roundtable: How to Recognize and Prevent IT Project Failures

Summary: This roundtable brings together two expert book authors to discuss why IT projects fail and how to prevent catastrophe.


The primary reason for studying failed projects is to become more successful. Although many people have opinions on this topic, few possess sufficient experience to discuss it credibly.

Given all the opinions about IT success and failure, I decided to assemble a roundtable discussion at with two genuine experts; Steve Romero and Todd Williams have each spent years coaching enterprise customers on the full range of issues that lead to IT success.

Steve Romero is a former IT governance evangelist at CA Technologies. He is author of the book Eliminating Us and Them, which explains how governance can align IT and lines of business. Todd Williams is a project turnaround expert and author of Rescue the Problem Project, a great handbook for making challenged projects successful. Both these gentleman are consummate experts in the field and deserve your attention.

The roundtable begins with a discussion of why projects fail and then leads into ideas for improving the situation. We talk about the role of investment in defining a project, expectations and perceptions, change management, IT / business alignment, and so on.

You can listen to a recording of the entire roundtable by clicking the audio player at the top of this post. In addition, read the transcript below.

Thank you to for permission to use the recording and transcript here.

Topic: Software Development

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  • What is an "IT" project?

    The only thing that comes to mind as an "IT project" is an internal infrastructure project intended to be transparent to business users. And such infrastructure projects don't have a higher rate of failure than general business projects in my experience; often lower.

    Any other technology project, whether it be animal, vegetable, mineral, mechanical, electrical, computer, or business process is a _business_ project. Start by ensuring that every project in your organization is managed (not 'project managed' - managed) by a person with direct business responsibility and authority [1] assisted as needed by specialists (engineers, computer people, project management assistants, etc). And have each project discussed (not 'stagegated' or other dog-and-pony show) thoroughly by groups of peer business managers on a regular basis.

    That should take care of 60-70% of the obvious failures. Then we need to discuss reasonable failure percentages in business (e.g. Ted Williams' .400 season = failure 6/10 times).


    [1] Or a small, tight committee of such managers if absolutely necessary for a large project.