Chris Dallar: Why IT Projects Fail – Look in the Mirror

Posted on May 23rd, 2013 By Chris Dallar

Much continues to be written regarding the failure of IT projects. No wonder, as our collective record of success as an industry provides ample material to discuss. A recent CFO article suggested that seven out of ten technology projects are considered failures and nearly nine out of 10 exceed schedule, budget or both. Maybe we really don’t understand why they fail…or perhaps we are unwilling to accept the reasons.


We’ve been standing up IT infrastructure and developing and installing custom applications for decades. We’ve installed packaged applications for nearly as long with results that aren’t much better. Even when the professionals are called in, we find countless clients that are disappointed with the results of the service providers. Why aren’t we getting any better?

Some would argue that technology is more complex now, with more components and more moving parts and that complexity positions us for more failure. Other would say that business requirements today are placing unreasonable demands on schedules and cost. To those folks, I would thoughtfully reply, “Blah, blah, blah”.

Go find the list of reasons why your last IT project failed. I’m sure someone had to create one, along with a list of “corrective actions” and “permanent fixes” to keep something like this from happening again. I guarantee you that most of the items on the list you are looking at are listed in a similar report that was written 20 years ago. We keep making the same mistakes, we tell ourselves that we won’t do it again……..and then we do it again! This pattern has continued for years.

In its simplest form, an IT project involves the integration of three components:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • People

Hardware is easier to work with than it has ever been.  Most components now are very much “plug and play”.  Hardware works as advertised and rarely fails, unless we mess with it.   The same can be said of software.  The challenge for most IT projects is the integration of multiple hardware components and multiple software products so that they all play nice together and produce the desired result…within schedule and budget.  I accept that there are more of these components to deal with now but it’s still just hardware and software.

If you are still reading, you have probably noticed that I have led you down a path where we have now met the enemy.   It’s us, all of us collectively in this industry.  We are the reason our IT projects fail.  Don’t point any fingers, just look in the mirror.

I’ll explore why this is in my next article on this subject.

Chris Dallar is the president of the Logan Advisory Group. Follow Chris here or at LinkedIn by clicking the icon below.