Short duration is key to e-business project success, survey suggests

E-business projects have a better success rate than IT projects in general, according to a survey by BCS member John Carroll of Carroll Consultants.

E-business projects have a better success rate than IT projects in general, according to a survey by BCS member John Carroll of Carroll Consultants.

A study of 26 e-business projects carried out to determine what the critical success factors were and whether traditional project management methodologies and techniques apply to these fast-moving projects found that roughly 33% of the projects were fully successful (on time, within budget and all required functionality implemented).

However, 63% were challenged (late and/or over budget and/or not functionally complete), and 4% failed. Of the challenged projects, 60% were late, 47% exceeded their budget and 27% failed to implement all the required functionality.

These figures suggest a better success rate for e-business projects than previously published figures for general IT projects.

In terms of project size, the projects ranged from three to 12 months duration, with the mean being about seven months. The average project required 930 days work effort and had a maximum of 18 people working on it at any one time.

The single most critical success factor was duration: of those lasting less than six months, projects were successful 50% of the time, projects lasting six to nine months were successful 40% of the time, and no projects of more than nine months duration were fully successful.

The processes considered by the project managers to be most critical to the success of a project (and the ones they used most frequently) were:

  • Monitoring and controlling project work
  • Scope change control
  • Top management support
  • Acquiring the project team
  • Activity resource estimating
  • Integrated change control
  • Full user involvement
  • Production of a preliminary project scope statement
  • Schedule control
  • Production of a project management plan.

In terms of project management methodology, the most frequently used (and most successful) was in-house methodology, which enjoyed a 50% success rate on projects, compared to only 10% on projects using Prince or PMBok (Project Management Body of Knowledge).

The most popular software development lifecycle was the classic "waterfall" approach, which was also more successful than rapid application development or any of the more evolutionary lifecycles.

In addition to the critical processes identified by the project managers, there were also seven processes which had a strong correlation to project success.

  • Top-level management support
  • Full user involvement
  • Stage and project closure
  • Issue management
  • Communications planning
  • Team empowerment
  • Quality control.

This findings suggest that traditional project management processes are still alive and well suited to e-business projects. Also, projects are more likely to be successful if they are kept to no more than nine months duration, are supported by an in-house project management methodology and use the classic waterfall systems development lifecycle.

John Carroll will be presenting his findings to the BCS South West Group on 17 January

Full results of the study:


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