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Study shows management is key to IT project success

John Kavanagh


Full user involvement, professional project and change management, and commitment from the top are the keys to IT success highlighted by a new BCS report on three very different award-winning projects, writes John Kavanagh.

The report, entitled IT at the Heart of Business, provides studies of three winners of the society's Information Systems Management Award.

The Automobile Association turned round its declining fortunes with an innovative combination of new and traditional technology to set new standards of service in its market.

Halifax Share Dealing had a deadline fixed in stone and had to be ready to handle one million customers on day one.

And London Ambulance Service pulled success from a series of disasters that became a national scandal as it developed an automated dispatch system. Morale was at rock bottom until a BCS professional member was put in charge.

"These studies, although technology-based, highlight the importance of the traditional virtue of effective management," says report author Guy Fitzgerald, professor of IS at Brunel University.

"In particular, understanding and managing change are central to success. Technology is a crucial enabler but is not enough. Indeed, many of the reported failures of IT systems say the technology actually 'worked' very well.

"What sets apart success from failure is the way the projects in this study were organised and managed," says Fitzgerald.

Everything therefore comes down to people. "People, supported by the right procedures - and not a little luck - can make the project work. Continuous commitment from top managers has to be secured, and the right people must be appointed to key posts. Users must take ownership of the system, have a part in its development and understand its aims."

  • IT at the Heart of Business is priced £35 to BCS members and £50 to others. It can be ordered on 01793-417424.

  • IT teams have a fortnight left to enter the IS Management Award. Nominations are due in by 15 December. The award will be presented at a dinner in London next May. Forms are available online at www.bcs.org/isawards/enter.htm and via 01793-417431 and mmuir@hq.bcs.org.uk.


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