See things clearly

In his blog “Who’s accountable for IT failure?”, Mike Krigsman argues that there are three reasons that IT projects fail.


  • Unrealistic and mismatched expectations – too many execs have misconceived ideas about what technology can actually do to solve business problems.


  • Conflicts of interest among customers, vendors and integrators – each having its own set of goals, and measures of success.


  • Corporate organization structure that conspires toward failure – most CIOs aren’t on the board, so lack the ability to marshal resources that could improve the chances of project success.


Many will have sympathy with the notion that,

“IT failure is too often considered business-as-usual, with executives throwing their figurative hands in the air, in surrender to chance or bad luck.


IT failures happen when managers exercise insufficient judgment, possess too little experience, hire the wrong people, ignore warning signs and, crucially, fail to involve affected employees in a way that eases the path to success.”

I think a lot of people in the IT industry would agree with much of the above - although perhaps not on the record!


But I believe there is a more fundamental reason why IT projects fail.


Put simply, many businesses do not understand PRECISELY how they work.




Consider this for a few seconds,

“I understand how each flow of data is used in my business, and I can clearly see, and easily communicate, which assets are touched by a flow of data as it traverses the organisation”

Do you have that degree of clarity?


Businesses today rely on a complex interaction of people, process and technology to operate. That interaction is driven by the flow of data between these assets: the life-blood of modern business.


IT projects fail because those involved do not fully understand the inter-connectivity of people, process and technology, nor how data flows between and through them. This lack of clarity means they are unable to confidently predict what will happen if changes are made.


Unlike businesses of earlier eras, many of today’s businesses do not have clarity on how everything is put together.


Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, flows of water, steam, and electricity, and then more recently, flows of oil, components and petrol, have all been critical for the development of business, economy and society.


Over decades, standards and practices for measurement, management, safety, optimisation and valuation, were created to accurately understand these different flows.  This meant business could accurately capture and communicate how the organisation worked - how activities, processes and the supporting technical infrastructure were linked to deliver the outputs required.


This clarity minimised ambiguity, and enabled clear communication, in business terms, with stakeholders.  Better informed decisions became possible, and a high degree of trust grew between ‘business’ and ‘tech’.


When today’s businesses create comparable clarity on flows of data, they will be able to clearly see, and easily communicate, the ‘as is’ state of the organisation, and perform ‘what’ ifs’ before attempting major change. 


At that point, most IT projects will be successful.



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