The IT industry has benefited from several empirical studies of this issue for several decades, probably because it is one of the industries where failure is reported so widely. At least 50 root causes of failure have been identified and various taxonomies of those causes are available, reducing them to 6 categories, for example.
There have also been numerous studies on the success of IT projects. For example, one finding is successful projects tend to be managed by experienced project managers. I believe the number was around 95% in fact. Project managers seem to be a very critical factor. They also appear to be critical in the successful recovery of failing projects, according to the studies.
If these studies are accurate reflections of reality then, in IT, it seems important to have an experienced project manager who possess the right mix of skills and knowledge required to manage the common causes of failure, if success is an objective. I think the following list from a recent study does a pretty good job of summing up the causes of failure in IT projects. Personally, I think they point out the need for the project manager to be a good leader and communicator, who possesses critical thinking skills and experience dealing with these problems.
• Lack of top management commitment to the project
• Misunderstanding the user requirements
• Not managing change properly
• Failure to gain user commitment
• Lack of adequate user involvement
• Conflict between user departments
• Changing scope and objectives
• Number of organizational units involved
• Failure to manage end-user expectations
• Unclear / misunderstood scope and objectives
• Improper definitions of roles and responsibilities
• Lack of frozen requirements
• Introduction of new technology
• Lack of effective project management skills
• Lack of effective project management methodology
• Lack of required team knowledge / skills
• Insufficient / inappropriate staffing
That is a tough nut to crack. It is somewhat related to how people fall in love with certain pieces of technology, or certain vendors, and then every problem becomes a candidate for that technology or vendor to solve. I saw an example recently where one department had selected a document imaging solution for an order entry system. Because of departmental politics, the finance department, who needed numbers and strings, and were not about to build an audit trail doing bitmap variance reports, just went ahead and developed their own order entry system. Political warfare is a hard thing to overcome because most of it is not rational, as you know. Although, I think it helps if the project you are working on is a strategic asset, closely aligned with corporate strategy, where the economic value is clearly articulated and supported by senior management and governance, in which case they may help calm the departmental wars for you.
Tags: causes, causes failure, effective project, Effective Project Management, experienced project, failure, lack, lack effective, management, order entry, project, projects, skills, user, Why IT Industry Has Benefited From Several Empirical Studies