Why successful IT projects fail

Read time 2min 50sec
MJ Fick: What is needed is a total integration of project management and change management.
MJ Fick: What is needed is a total integration of project management and change management.

So you've planned your complex IT project down to the nth degree: it has been meticulously scoped and designed; implementation has gone well; testing has been rigorous; it's gone live on time and within budget; and the accolades have been pouring in. Time to pack up and go home, satisfied with a job well done.

Not so fast. Two months later you're having to explain to those who hold you accountable why the project that was such a success has failed - and failed miserably. It's not adding the value that was anticipated, because it is not being used. It's as simple as that.

"But we trained everyone on it. I just don't understand," you mutter as you head back to the IT department with the words "Fix it!" ringing in your ears.

Perhaps your first stop shouldn't be the IT department, but the HR department. No, not to apply for a transfer to the call centre, but to speak to the people who deal with change management.

That's right; change management. You know, the fluffy stuff that the people in HR push when the company wants to deal with resistance regarding a proposed change in the culture of the organisation, or a management change; or change in work systems and processes - the type of change a major (or minor) IT project can, and does, introduce.

XHead = Integrating change management

According to MJ Fick, managing partner at project management consultants, TenStepZA, there is growing realisation among project managers that change management is not only critical to the sustainable success of any IT project, the two disciplines should be totally integrated.

"The days when project managers only had to focus on the technical side of an IT project, particularly a complex one such as an ERP implementation, are long gone. Today, project managers have to concern themselves with the business side of the project as well," she says.

"They have to understand why the project is being implemented, what the anticipated outcomes are; and they have to ensure that the people who are going to have to use the new system really understand what it does and why. Merely providing users with cursory training isn't sufficient. Change management is essential," she adds.

But it's not just a case of wheeling in the change management team after the IT project management team has done its stuff.

Fick maintains that that could be too late. And having the project management team and the change management people working in parallel while the project is being implemented also won't do much good.

"What is needed is a total integration of project management and change management. Without this the two teams will end up stepping on each other's toes, and playing catch up with each other," she says.

"This integration must cover all aspects of the project from budgeting, through risk and issue management, communications and training."

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