SATs and other failures - one explanation

A failure of the Gateway Review process?

A reader, Peter Duschinsky, writes with authority about why IT-related failures keep happening. He’s responding to an article on the IT Projects blog which questioned whether Gateway Reviews are working.

“I just spotted your blog and your reader’s response. I am not at all surprised at the SAT tests fiasco.

“OGC’s Gateway review process doesn’t deal adequately with the fundamental issue behind most of these failed or delayed projects: the high complexity of the project relative to the low capability of the organisation to manage its implementation. 

“After spending years as a change management consultant being frustrated at seeing so many modernisation and efficiency programmes failing to deliver the expected benefits, I started looking at the literature for some of the underlying causes – and found that I was not the only one to notice this problem, and it’s not just in the public sector.

“- A recent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report, Reorganising for success: CEOs and HR Managers? perceptions surveyed 800 executives and found that reorganisations failed to deliver real improvement in performance in 40% of cases.

– Standish Group surveys confirm that in large companies, only 10% of IT projects are completed on-time and on-budget

– The Harvard Business School tracked the impact of change efforts among the Fortune 100 and found that only 30% produced a positive bottom-line improvement.

But the problem does seem to be greater in the public sector – why? I encountered all the usual reasons in my research, but felt that these didn’t really explain the high level of failure.

In the end I concluded that initiating organisational changes of any kind presents both a process management challenge and a people management challenge to the organisation. If the complexity of the project is such that it overwhelms the organisation’s capability to manage it, the consequence is, at the very least, a project that costs much more, takes far longer and delivers considerably less than planned.

I am now using tools to measure project complexity against organisational capability, and coming up with some interesting answers.

In the latest SAT tests case, I am reasonably sure that ETS Europe failed completely to understand the complexity of the project it took on, in the context of the culture and capability of the UK education sector. The tragedy is: so did the National Assessment Agency.”


Should SAT problems have been foreseen? – many comments – Mortarboard

Test pupils marked “absent” – BBC

29% of teen’ SATs delayed – BBC Education 

Are Gateway Reviews working? – IT Projects blog  

BBC TV News reports on another IT-related failure – IT Projects blog

Telegraph report on gateway reviews and Freedom of Inforamtion Act – 2006