Cultural issues are among the key drivers causing acute IT problems. Project failure rates remain high in large part because these drivers are difficult to identify and diagnose.
Many organizations accept information silos as a cost of doing business, despite the clear negative impact of these boundaries in communicating project status, problems, and potential points of failure. In extreme cases, projects fail and management claims complete ignorance of any problems whatsoever. Yes indeed, these are Dilbert moments.
The importance of conversation becomes magnified when we recognize the term information silos really means "people don't talk with one another." Sal Rasa, an innovative organizational development colleague of mine, elaborates:
Living in a Web 2.0 environment changes our perspectives on knowledge sharing and traditional organizational dynamics frameworks. "Conversations" become understood as critical....
It's easy to sidestep the human dimension of success and failure, focusing instead on abstract notions of culture and politics. Consultant and blogger, Susan Scrupski, sent me an email making clear that self-serving individuals are responsible for project failures:
It's not culture, but rather hubris and ego that blows up what could be fantastic product design or customer experiences. When people can't work out their differences on a human level, brilliant projects are canceled and abandoned.
Still, culture can have a dramatic impact on success and failure across a range of industries and sectors. In a conversation about public sector financial waste, Suffolk University professor of organizational ethics, Lydia Segal, told me:
So you have rules designed to stop waste that now cause it. The waste is built into the rules and reinforced by the myopic organizational culture that those rules fostered.
Changing an organization's culture to support successful IT involves establishing new attitudes toward organizational communication. Most organizations will continue to experience unacceptably high rates of IT project failure until they explicitly redefine work processes to reduce communication boundaries.
IT success rates will only improve when organizations initiate systematic efforts to institutionalize greater information sharing.
The upcoming Office 2.0 conference includes numerous sessions examining processes and technologies forward-thinking organizations have used to overcome information boundaries. If you're interested in these issues, I recommend attending or sponsoring this conference.