IT Plans sometimes fail… What to do.

The history of information technology is littered with projects that have been truly successful, but some others… we just wondered “what were they thinking?”.

When you look at the reasons for IT project failure, you can attribute to feature tiptoe? Insufficient training? Overlooking essential stakeholders? They're all on the list -- time and time again according to studies made by Mark Kozak-Holland, author of Titanic Lessons for IT Projects.

A popular management concept these days is "failing forward" -- the idea that it's OK to fail as long as you learn from these practices. We did some research, and found some IT projects that may have "failed" -- but from which companies had lessons learned and avoided the mistakes. Here is one good example.

In 1956, IBM set out to build the world's fastest supercomputer. Five years later, they produced the IBM 7030 -- a.k.a. Stretch -- Capable of handling a half-million instructions per second, Stretch was the fastest computer in the world at that time, originally biding to be 100 times faster than the system to be replaced.

Sadly, Stretch came in only 30 to 40 times faster. Failure to IBM? Well, not quite… Stretch introduced pipelining, memory protection, memory interleaving and other technologies that have opened minds to shape computers as we know them today. So, even if a lot of money was spent, and the original goal was not close to be met, lots of advance was made as well.

What do we learn from this fact? Do not through everything off the board! Not reaching your goals, does not necessarily mean you failed, you may still be able to rescue learnings and best practices of lasting value from the hard experience.

In IT, we typically set aggressive goals that might look overwhelming, but achievable. As the project is implemented, you might have to adjust expectations. Perhaps in the middle of the project a glitch was found, funds reduced, understaffed, contingency plans, and could be a complete showstopper, or major delay in best cases. So, we recommend not to panic, stick to your goals but also learn along the way, share these findings so stakeholders truly understand where you are standing.

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