IS and Success

8 Feb

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.”  – – Bill Cosby


IS projects have a notoriously high failure rate, with many abandoned before completion. When an IS unit gets to a stage whereby it can be observed and measured – this in itself is a considerable success. However, the majority of projects that do reach implementation are described as challenged, – overrunning their original estimates, failing to meet objectives, or failing in terms of user acceptance. In fact, over the past decade, only 30-35% of IT projects were deemed truly successful.


Yearly IT project success/failure rates – Standish Group

The table (above) and the figures in the previous paragraph are sourced from Standish Group’s “Chaos Report”. The Standish Group reviews thousands of projects and produces a very popular though controversial (It is questionable how representative their sample is) yearly report outlining IT project success and failure rates.

So, how does Standish determine success?

Success = “The project is completed, on-time and on budget, with all features and functions as initially specified

At first glance, this criteria for IS success, though project-orientated, seems plausible. However, a system may conceivably be completed, on time and on budget, and as initially specified, and end up hidden under the stairs because nobody really wants to learn yet another new system after all. (The criteria fails to cover all dimensions of IS success.) Conversely, various commentators argue that many projects fail to meet some or any of these requirements but would still be considered successful. Indeed, there is a latent expectation that complex projects will over-run time and budget and may not deliver all that is hoped, or deliver differently than expected.

The example outlined (above) is IT project-orientated. Nevertheless, it serves to highlight the flaw in the IS success debate. The difficulty with IS & Success is that success is Relative.

“If A equals success, then the formula is A = X + Y + Z.  X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut.”

– Albert Einstein


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