NHS IT project is dead, but why do large IT projects fail? Part 8

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,  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..

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

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

Part 6 was from investigative journalist Tony Collins.

Part 7 featured professor ILan Oshri, associate fellow at Warwick Business School and associate professor at the Rotterdam School of Management. 

I am looking for more comments. If you want to contribute please send you answer to thequestion: why do large IT projects fail? It must be under 200 words. Please send a short biog and a picture. I can’t publish them all but I will consider them all. 

Today in part 8, I feature comments from Robert Morgan, director at sourcing broker Burnt Oak Partners. In the past he has applied his IT outsourcing expertise to a project to the virtualise DEFRA. He has repositioned major IT outsourcing deals at large organisations including Rolls Royce, Bombardier Transportation and DWP. He co-founded sourcing advisory Morgan Chambers and sold it to Equaterra, which was later acquired by KPMG.

He says: “Large IT projects fail broadly in three stages of the normal lifecycle:

Preparedness – A solid understanding and detailed business case of what, why and how the project will be undertaken is critical. All contributing or benefitting parties must have had their say, their role and responsibilities and agreed the commitment needed for success. Full overt executive sponsorship must be visible in all communications, budget and senior management effort – not just for the project kick-off but for every envisaged stage. Design, documentation, governance and reporting must be robust and fit for purpose too.

Execution – expect the unexpected and have multiple ways to handle change. Business must have the ability to understand “complex change” beyond technology, decide on the quality of facts, and act swiftly with clear understanding of likely impacts to budgets, timeframes, functionality and measures of success. SLA’s must be tightly relevant to the business. Governance is no substitute for poor project management, however it can and should drive and escalate executive decision to reign in failing projects early.

Reviews – All large projects need pre-planned and crisis escalated reviews for executive decisions. They must constantly check that measures remain simple, relevant and challenging. That staff attrition is not affecting the projects ability to deliver and reinforce executive sponsorship.”