Another case of where it’s not just a problem with IT

Before I came to Voltage I did mergers and acquisitions consulting. This can be very frustrating work because you put in lots of hard work and most M&A deals end up not closing. You typically have 90 days to do all of your due diligence for a deal, but you lose a week or two up front when you're getting organized and you lose a week or two at the end when you have to write reports and give presentations on what you learned. This means that you really have more like 60 days to learn everything, and that can mean lots of 20-hour days.

Fortunately, the work's interesting enough and the pay's high enough that you tend to not really mind that. On the other hand, it's very frustrating to see all of that work be for nothing when deals don't work out, and most of them don't.

I was having lunch with a former co-worker recently and was reminiscing about this particular frustration when it was pointed out to me that big IT projects have the same problem: most of them fail. The Standish Group has been tracking the success of IT projects for quite a while, at least since 1995, and here's what they had to say about how things are going now: 

"This year's results show a marked decrease in project success rates, with 32% of all projects succeeding which are delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions" says Jim Johnson, chairman of The Standish Group," 44% were challenged which are late, over budget, and/or with less than the required features and functions and 24% failed which are cancelled prior to completion or delivered and never used."

"These numbers represent a downtick in the success rates from the previous study, as well as a significant increase in the number of failures", says Jim Crear, Standish Group CIO, "They are low point in the last five study periods. This year's results represent the highest failure rate in over a decade"

So IT projects, which have always been challenging in the past, have apparently gotten worse recently. I don't follow the Standish Group's CHAOS reports, their annual reports on the state of IT project management, like I used to, but I seem to recall that the trend was moving in the right direction in the past. Maybe cutting project management and risk management overhead due to the recent recession is responsible for this trend.

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