IS Success – Common trends

29 Jan

We all know that frequently Information System projects do fail. It is an unfortunate fact but something that must be addressed if failure is to be minimised across the industry. Many different studies advocate different reasons for the failure of such projects and depending on which you read failure occurs anywhere between 50-80% according to Dr. Paul Dorsey of Dulcian incorporated.

Dorsey maintains that IS projects that do succeed tend to have have three things in common

  1. Top Management Support
  2. A Sound Methodology
  3. Solid technical leadership by someone who has successfully completed a similar project

Top Management Support is viewed in nearly every study done on IS Success as an essential factor to success. If a problem is identified on a project then top management must be in support or it is likely to fail. Where top management appear to be behind a project and are visibly seen to give guidance projects tend to have a much higher success rate. The opposite can also be seen where top management do not support a project.

According to Dorsey, projects where management are in support have succeeded in his professional experience and those where management where not in support rapidly deteriorated and failed. Dorsey goes on to say that many managers may not fully understand a system design and that  “high-level objective auditors” must be brought into a company on a consulting basis.

Developing a sound methodology is also crucial according to Dorsey, “Many systems are built with little thought to process. The team gets together and starts performing activities. As soon as enough information is gathered, coding begins. This lack of attention to process can kill a system”.  Employing the use of a certain methodology is not what Dorsey advocates but rather to use a methodology that keeps a project organised   in a focused manner.

Technical leadership must be present if an information project is to enjoy success. “Just as a building needs an architect, so a software system needs a technical lead”. Dorsey compares an IS project to that of a civil engineering one. “To be successful, the architect or technical lead must be the one in control of the “architecture” of the project, namely the data model and application design”. It is important for the technical lead to know what the specific business area is about that the project is designed for. For example if the project is to design an accounting system then the technical lead must have a understanding of the basics in accounting.


Dr Paul Dorsey’ full article is available here:


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