NHS IT project is dead, but why do large IT projects fail? Part 6

Following the news that the NHS National Project for IT has been dropped I have been posting some of the views I have recently had provided to me for an unrelated feature I am working on.

The feature, which will appear in two parts on Computerweekly.com soon, asks the question: Why do large IT projects fail?

I started with the comments made by Brian Randell. Randell is a professor of at the School of Computing Science at Newcastle University.

Then part two came from Anthony Finkelstein. He is professor of software systems engineering at University College London (UCL) and dean of UCL Engineering.

Part three, was from Yann L’Huillier, group CIO at financial services giant Compagnie Financiere Tradition, who has also headed up IT at several of the world’s stock exchanges.

Part 4 was from James Martin, the former IT COO Europe at investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Part 5 from Philip Virgo , who is secretary general at the Information Society Alliance. He has nearly 40 years’ experience of IT projects.

Today in Part 6 investigative journalist Tony Collins, who has revealed the problems in many an IT project, gives us his opinion on why large IT projects fail.

Tony Collins is an investigative journalist who has specialist on large IT projects.  He is co-author of Crash, a book on IT disasters, and co-founder of Campaign4Change which seeks reforms in the public sector. He spent 21 years at Computer Weekly.

He says: “Every project is different but these are some general lessons.

1 – Projects with realistic budgets and timetables tend not to be approved.
2 – The more desperate the situation the more optimistic the progress report.
3 – End-users are likely to reject any system that gives them what they asked for. Better for the project managers to understand what users do rather than what they say they do.
4 – CEOs who know a great deal about computer projects are dangerous. The over-confident CEO may try to do too much, too soon and with too little – and possibly remove potential savings from business budgets before the savings are actually made. He gets few warnings because he is surrounded by those who’ll agree with him.
6 – Keep it small and simple. If it has to be big, split it into components that are each useful in themselves.
7 – A failing project has benefits that are always spoken of in the future tense.
8 – In the public sector the unnecessary secrecy over the progress or otherwise of major projects such as Universal Credit continues. It’s a pity because it increases the chances of failure. “