Why don't more organizations recognize potential IT project problems before they escalate into full-blown failures? Bruce F. Webster believes many companies reject good solutions to fix bad projects for three reasons: internal politics, budget, and fear/pride.
Bruce's column in Baseline describes three sins that make failure almost inevitable in many organizations:
Internal politics. Large internal IT systems...usually involve several different groups, each of which may or may not be all that happy about having to work with some of the others, but are forced to do so for various budgetary, departmental, or business alignment reasons.
Budget. This may seem counter-intuitive, but management often finds it easier and safer to have a project drag on year after year, ultimately costing large sums of money, than to spend a relatively small (but still painful) portion of that amount up front and fix the problems now.
Fear/pride. Fear and pride can be closely related, particularly when the issue is admitting you made a mistake. This is particularly true if a key manager, architect, team leader, or developer has championed or defended a given approach that turns out not to have worked.
Organizational inertia, the decision-making gridlock that arises when conflicting personal agendas and viewpoints prevent team consensus, lies at the heart of many failures.
While experienced CIOs may recognize that politics and fear cause failure, simply wishing the problem away accomplishes nothing. Instead, wise leaders must take active steps to change organizational attitudes toward failure itself. In fact, it can be healthy for companies to prune back their project portfolio periodically, encouraging natural selection to leave only strong projects untouched.
Facing the inevitability of failure, what's a responsible CIO to do? Aside from seeking new employment, transparency is the best weapon in the fight against corporate inertia. Exposing self-interested agendas to the harsh glare of daylight is the surest way to keep the system honest.
And that, my friends, is precisely what's needed to improve IT project success.
[Image via http://home.att.net/~s.l.keim/Sermon.htm.]