The Trend of Failing Projects

Sadly, the biggest trend with large IT projects these days is that they’re often ending in failure rather than success. The larger the project is, the more likely it is to fail. According to a 2012 study by McKinsey; 17% of projects valued at 15 million or higher actually go over so poorly that they put the company’s existence in question. Of these high value IT projects, over 40% will fail. Bloch, Blumberg, and Laartz (2012)

In fact, polls conducted by Geneca (2011) directly asked over 600 IT workers their thoughts on the success or failure of a project they were working on. A whopping 78% of respondents believed their project would fail from the start! There are several strategies that can be implemented to help avoid this sad fate, but it’s first important to understand the reasons behind all these big flops.

There are three main reasons that the large IT projects have such a high failure rate:

1. Poor Management
2. Poor Project Design
3. Attempt at a large release/big bang release

Project Management

The core job of the project manager is to monitor the project scope, facilitate communication and motivate teams to deliver. Now, project managers much also become the developmental lead on a project. Poor management is the #1 reason that IT projects fail. Often, the management team itself is not in agreement on the project strategy. Higher management is often not included in these crucial steps, which is a huge red flag signaling failure.

Many teams will begin a project, only to find they have inadequate skills to complete the stage, which changes project requirements mid-way through and incurs unexpected costs. Prior to undertaking a large IT project, companies should ensure they have both the talent and the manpower within their team to handle the scope of the project. While it is still common to see cost-cutting practices in regards to the IT department, this isn’t how companies should look at things. Having the man-power available and ready in IT will be one of the key ways to ensure a projects success. It’s essential for the work load to be divided up whenever possible into more manageable pieces and for companies to use an iterative methodology. Plan to deliver early and often, as this is the ideal way to catch any areas of improvement and fine tune a final product.

Project Design

Project planning cannot be left to the IT department alone- the entire organization needs to be on board with the same plan, timeframe, and budget. The IT department will naturally have a major role in the design and implementation of any IT or software related projects, but it is essential that input is heard often and consistently from the business management team as well. Encouraging both groups to ‘speak the same language’ can be difficult, but will yield the best results.

The planning process for these types of projects is 90% of the battle. Therefore nothing is more important than ensuring a good and reasonable plan is in place before undertaking tasks. Once you’ve started, be hesitant about making too many ‘tweaks’ along the way, and don’t agree to take on more than is reasonable according to the plan that’s already been outlined.

Slow Project Release

The last major reason that many IT projects fail is because they’re often released all at once instead of in smaller stages. By releasing projects slowly, according to a strict management timeline, companies are able to test out various stages of development as they are released and note any errors so they can be fixed before a full roll out occurs. Companies that regularly test their projects at each new stage of developments are the ones that are successfully completing large-scale IT projects that aren’t running over budget, or coming out as complete failures. This testing phase should always be a collaborative effort between the IT and business departments of a company.

In a few days, I will post the remainder of this article, suggesting actions we can take to minimize these issues, and put our projects on the path to success.


Bloch, M., Blumberg, S., Laartz, J. (2012). Delivering large-scale IT projects on time, on budget, and on value. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Up to 75% of Business and IT Executives Anticipate their Software Projects Will Fail. (2011). Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Ditmore, J. (2012) Ensuring Project Success II: Best Practices in Project Delivery. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from

Dorsey, P. (2000) Top Ten Reasons Why Systems Projects Fail. Retrieved June 26, 2014, from publications.


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