Technology has forever changed the business world, and many would say for the better. IT has made it easier to work remotely, streamline processes, connect with customers, and much more. However, one question on business leaders’ minds is why do so many technology projects still fail?
According to one study by McKinsey, more than 40 percent of IT projects fail. In the study, 17 percent of projects with budgets over $15 million failed so badly that they threatened to end the business.
Even when projects do not fail, many run over budget and exceed the deadline. The average large technology project exceeds the budget by 45 percent, runs over the deadline by 7 percent, and in the end, only achieves about 56 percent of the perceived value. However, businesses can learn from others’ failure. Below are the most common reasons why technology projects fail, and how business leaders can avoid making those same mistakes.
Shortage of Resources
One of the most common and obvious reasons why some technology projects are unsuccessful is simply resource limitation. In a survey by Innotas, 74 percent of respondents cited a lack of resources as the primary reason why they were unable to meet project demands.
This could be an easy problem to address if organizations planned thoroughly, ensuring that they have all they need. But, unexpected issues can always arise. For example, one resource mistake some make is not assigning enough players to one project. Giving each team member an unrealistic workload can not only hurt their individual ability to perform but their work morale.
No Clear Business Objective
Before beginning a tech project, organizations need to establish two points:

  1. What do you want to achieve?
  2. How will it be valuable to overall business success?

It feels like there is a new app, software, or device every year, and business IT can be pressured to keep their organizations equipped with the latest. Some organizations may feel like they need new tools, programs, and other IT ventures because everyone else has them. However, this mindset can be devastating for companies. It becomes problematic if the new IT project doesn’t have a clear objective and quantifiable end result.
Objectives help keep teams on track. Without them, they are swerving all over the place, and will inevitably crash. In fact, missing focus and unclear objectives were cited as the top causes of project failure in the McKinsey study.
Lack of Leadership
Managers and leaders are vital to the success of tech ventures. They help shape the team environment. establish team processes, and motivate other members of the team. Successful IT projects often have leaders that understand the “big picture” and the role their work plays in it too. Intel CIO, Kim Stevenson, reflected this mindset recently saying, “There are no IT projects, only business projects.”
It is important for managers to delegate tasks to ensure that each individual understands how their work fits into the project. Individuals should have a clear set of expectations, which they are capable of meeting. Successful leaders are not only responsible for delegating tasks and setting expectations on a team. They are also maintaining the team morale, especially motivation.
One of the best but overlooked ways that team leaders can foster member motivation is by establishing a continuous, two-way stream of feedback. Asking for feedback from members can be just as important as giving it. This method gives each member a sense of value within the team and can increase motivation. Feedback can also help to reflect on the progress of a project and identify any red flags before they happen. When feedback is absent or lacking though, performance and motivation often suffer.
Leaders should take an active role in project development, however, they should also know when to take a backseat. One of the worst mistakes that managers can make is to micromanage. Micromanaging is a time suck and motivation killer. By focusing too much on the details and constantly controlling how team members complete tasks, project managers can often lose sight of the big picture. They lose time to devote to other tasks and before they know it, the deadline has arrived and the project is incomplete.
It can be easy to get lost in the details, especially for longer ventures. However, even the most talented workers can struggle to perform when the boss is hovering over their shoulders all the time.
With a talented team, leaders should be able to loosen the reins a little. The key is to provide members with direction and support, but give them the opportunity to work independently. Managers should have regular check-ins with members to review their progress and be available if needed, but remember that each person has a role. Micromanaging will make your team members feel purposeless, undervalued, and stressed.
Poor Collaboration
Strong collaboration is perhaps one of the most influential factors that affect project completion. In fact, 86 percent of execs say failures are caused by poor collaboration and communication. Furthermore, 97 percent of executives and employees agree that a lack of alignment negatively impacts the completion of a task.
Delegating tasks is important, so that every member understands their responsibility to the team. However, where some IT projects go wrong is that team members don’t communicate or collaborate effectively or at all. Some take on the mindset that, “It’s not my job, you do it.” Unfortunately, that is one of the warning signs of a disengaged employee, and they can be toxic to meeting business goals. Incorporating collaboration from the start can help prevent members from falling into this category.
From the beginning and throughout a project, members should establish a team mindset. Even doing a few team-building activities at the start can help foster teamwork and engage members. When everyone is comfortable working in both independent and collaborative environments, the productivity and quality of work is more likely to increase.
It is important to stress that collaboration is designed to make your job easier, rather than give individuals more work. Advanced collaboration tools make it easy for individuals to work on projects together from anywhere.
Missing An Agile Culture
Agility is one of the top words buzzing around boardrooms today, but what is it exactly? The definition of agility will likely change depending on which executive you ask. For some IT leaders, agility is about technology. For others, it is about being able to anticipate and easily adjust to industry and market trends that will affect how you run your business. The companies that do agility best are the ones with a culture that incorporates both of these viewpoints.
Agile organizations are innovative and forward-thinking. Often, they are one step ahead of their competitors, because of their flexibility and ability to embrace change. Companies with agile cultures may even be more likely to complete projects. What does agility have to do with successful IT project management?
Companies with agile cultures are more likely to reach goals. Instead of following a traditional waterfall methodology of project management, moving from one process to the next without evaluation, they’ll take an agile approach. When agile principles are applied to project management, teams finish tasks in weekly or monthly “sprints”. Then, they reflect on their work and make any necessary adjustments to future processes.
There are dozens of reasons why an IT project can fail. Teams can get overwhelmed with user needs, resource limitations, changing technologies, communication, and dozens of other variables that affect completion. However, learning from these common mistakes can help make your next project a success.
Let us know what you think of why IT Projects fail? Do any of these happen to you?