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Nexus tackles IT failure

Cliff Saran
Cranfield School of Management has joined forces with some of the UK's leading businesses and public sector organisations to form a think tank that aims to learn from IT project failures.

Founding members of the Nexus forum include AstraZeneca, BT, Friends Provident, the Rural Payments Agency and West Midlands Police.

Ashley Braganza, director of Nexus and senior lecturer at Cranfield, said IT projects often fail because those defining the project scope focus on delivering a technical solution rather than addressing a genuine business need. "Too often IT provides a solution which addresses the symptoms rather than the cause [of a problem]," he said.

For example, Braganza said he was aware of one business that had spent a vast amount on a global CRM system to gain a holistic view of its customers, only for the project to fail because the structure of the company did not allow for information sharing.

Braganza said businesses tend to focus on the IT needed to underpin a business strategy rather than assessing the change management issues vital to implementing it.

Famous failures in change management include the London Ambulance Service IT debacle in November 2000, which could have been avoided if people understood the impact of change before the new system went live, he said.

Change management should drive the IT to support a business strategy, said Braganza. Otherwise, he warned, end-users would continue to use their own technology such as a desktop customer database, rather than move to a system that supports the business' objectives such as a global CRM system.

The second focus for Nexus is joining up management areas. "Many organisations have a project to improve process, another to manage knowledge management and another for change management. The three are inextricably linked," said Braganza.

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