LargeIT - Why Large IT Projects Fail Peter Henderson

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May 2006 (revised August 2010) Why Large IT Projects Fail Peter Henderson p.henderson@ecs.soton.ac.uk School of Electronics and Computer Science University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK Abstract Large IT projects may not deliver what they promise. Often they are late. Often they are over budget. Often what is eventually delivered is not either what was originally speciFed nor what is actually needed. There are many reasons why this happens. We discuss some of those reasons here and argue that many of them are a consequence of failure to specify requirements anything like adequately. We introduce the notion of requirements drift as a root cause of failure and show, by the use of models, that the often quite large discrepancies between expectations and reality can be the consequence of quite modest amounts of requirements drift. This preprint is available at http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/˜ph/LargeIT.pdf Keywords: Large IT Projects, Requirements, Failure, Open Systems, Complexity, Models Introduction Large IT projects are those that involve hundreds of software engineers and require many years to complete. Such projects often fail. Failure can be in various forms. Sometimes the delivered system fails to provide signiFcant requirements to the standard of quality which makes it possible to actually deploy the system. Sometimes the anticipated cost for the project is exceeded by a large factor. Sometimes the anticipated delivery date is exceeded by a large factor. Often, failure involves a combination of all three of these e f ects. The main problem is to determine the causes of such failures, since this must precede the recommendations for mitigating their consequences. We will enumerate the accepted reasons for large project failure and show that an underlying cause of all of them is what we shall call requirements drift. The accepted reasons why large IT projects fail are many and various, but include all the following 1
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1. There is too much optimism as to the potential benefts oF IT and as to the cost oF delivering those benefts 2. There is too little investment at the beginning. 3. Su cient investment is made eventually, but is too late. 4. There is not enough technical know-how in the project team. 5. There are opposing Human Factors aspects -including insu cient consideration of teams, project management and risks. 6. The project does not plan incremental roll-out and fails to anticipate the e f ect of big-bang on the organisation. 7. The project tries to match IT to the existing Business Processes of the organisation, rather than mandating that the Business Processes change to match those implicit in the IT. 8. Initial underinvestment leads to an investment legacy, where the project has invested in bad decisions and doesn’t have the courage to retreat. 9. There are many management disaster scenarios such as
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LargeIT - Why Large IT Projects Fail Peter Henderson

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