Why Do Technology Projects Fail?
Our goal in writing the "Beyond Great Ideas and Good Intentions" series of business lessons and lectures was to look at the mindset that creates success. In the process of identifying challenges in information technology success it is equally important to take a look at the attitudes that cause negative results and the perceptions of failure.
I was closely following a major system upgrade in an online forum where end users were voicing their frustrations over a project that was bringing workflow to a standstill. The end users saw an application that was "just working fine" before the upgrade. With the upgrade underway end users were screaming about a technology support department that was not keeping up with resolving problems.
One of the end users stated that the changes made "were probably because of those IT types that want something new to tinker with." I was not an employee of the technology department making the changes, but as an outside observer with a fair understanding of the software involved, I had some good ideas of what was happening. The end users were speculating on the reasons for the changes because management was not addressing many of the issues they were facing.
Very often those "IT types" do not have the ultimate say in what gets implemented and when. I can say that with certainty from first hand experience from working in many different areas of technology. It is really frustrating to see remarks from end users unhappy with changes that are often beyond the control of the IT department. I really felt bad for the IT department that was caught in the cross fire between a mob of angry end users frustrated with a sea of problems and an overly ambitious management releasing untested bleeding edge technology that was not willing to address the issues.
The Perils of Project Management by Committee
For many IT Managers, there too many cooks in the kitchen telling them what kind of soup to cook. How would you like to be responsible for cooking the soup, and not even being allowed to shop for your own ingredients?
In many cases choices are influenced by non technical departments and the decisions are based on some form of committee not controlled by the technology department.
As the old joke goes, if a camel were designed by a committee it would have 12 humps.
Blame Everything on the IT Department
As someone who has been in the technology field for many years, I will tell you point blank, seasoned IT professionals do NOT want something new to tinker with when it comes to a production network or system. Seasoned IT professionals err on the side of caution when it comes to adding something new or changing anything. We understand that change, any kind of change that has an impact on end users, will create headaches.
The personal anecdotes in this section on the quest for business success are based on a long and diversified career helping a variety of business people integrate technology into their business. Sadly, I have seen first hand many technology decisions made for reasons other than technology.
When things don't turn out as expected, the IT department takes the blame.
Expectations and responsibility
In a recent forum post on the internet a person posted that they are looking for a piece of business software with "everything into one program."
If you are a small business shopping for some software, first thing you need to do is define "everything." Starting on a piece of paper, write down your thoughts. Start your technology planning as a list of tasks. You are going to need to break down you question into individual tasks.
People end up being very disappointed and even angry when they actually start to work with technology because it isn't what they thought it would be. It is good to set expectations first because you may be surprised as to things you can do.
There is not a one size fits all solution, and there is not a one application does all answer. Once you have a list of tasks, you can start shopping for software. Once you understand all the things you want to do, you can now start shopping for solutions with a new set of questions in mind.
Why Do Technology Projects Fail?
As a technology coordinator and systems administrator I try to focus technology conversations on the question, "What exactly is it that you are trying to do?"
One of the biggest challenges in information technology success is setting proper expectations for its use. Going back to my experiences with the introduction of microcomputers to schools and businesses in the early 1980s, I saw many instances where computers were installed without clear goals for their use.
A popular expression is that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. We address that theme in various ways throughout the Guru 42 Universe. In some of the articles that follow we address the unfortunate stereotypes of technology professionals created by self proclaimed tech-savvy users.
The ability to drive a car does not make you an automotive expert. That analogy holds true as the use of technology has become mainstream, creating a world is full of "experts" that self proclaim themselves as masters in some area of technology simply because they know a buzzword to describe some technology product or feature.
As a business manager you have the expectation of having the tools available to you whenever you need them. Technology is a tool that can help solve many problems. Even the casual end user of technology for entertainment or communication purposes has the expectation to have their toys available to them. Losing access to our geek tools and toys is a major cause of concern because everyone has become so dependent on technology.
Business owners and managers have the responsibility of working with professional geeks such as system administrators to provide them with the tools and support they need to deal with global infrastructure headaches and constant security threats. End users have the responsibility of understanding the goals of the system administrators and supporting them by following the rules and not adding to the issues that can create problems.
“If you don't know where you are going any road can take you there” .. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland