Quality First, Success Second

The relative success or failure of an IT project may depend on the exact meaning of the word success. That’s one upshot of new research from consultancy Cutter Consortium, which found that IT projects premised on quality improvements—such as increased customer satisfaction, product quality or staff productivity—were much less likely to fail than projects evaluated in terms of other objectives—such as whether they came in on time and under budget.

Cutter’s conclusions are based on a pair of large surveys. In the first, Cutter studied software project failures at more than 200 global organizations; in the second, Cutter evaluated 232 completed software projects to determine whether project size had any bearing on project success.

Over the last few years, especially, large organizations have focused like a laser on bringing arrant projects to heel. To some extent, Bennatan concedes, these efforts have had an impact. “Some reports indicate that the rate of software project failure is declining,” he writes.

For example, among the 44 percent of organizations that have cancelled or abandoned projects, 34 percent did so with fewer than 10 percent of their projects, while another 7 percent did so with less than 25 percent of their projects. Most organizations are seeing projects through. “[E]ven if this is so, the problem is still quite significant. Most development organizations experience severe overruns, and many (nearly half) have cancelled or abandoned some of their projects,” he comments.

Why is it still a significant problem? For starters, whenever organizations are confronted with severe project delays or budget overruns, they typically opt to stay the course—without substantially revisiting or revising their initial project assumptions, the governance model they’re using to manage and track project progress, or the capabilities of their project development team.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a contributing editor. He can be reached at [email protected].