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Digital project failure still off the menu

Eight years ago, YouTube head Susan Wojcick described eight pillars that Google uses to innovate – but IT pros are still failing to fail fast

Almost half (43%) of UK businesses that took part in a recent study consider driving digital transformation to improve competitive advantage to be their top priority in the next year. A further 32% said they are allocating at least one-fifth of their IT budget to new projects.

But the survey – commissioned by IT services provider KCom Enterprise – found that a lack of senior stakeholder support is the biggest inhibitor of change, followed closely by budget and a lack of specialist skills.

While companies such as Google have given credibility to the concept of failing fast, and taking the lessons learnt to apply to subsequent projects, many of the organisations surveyed said they were worried about project failures.

According to KCom Enterprise, conflicting priorities at a senior level have the potential to delay or derail projects. It recommended that a “sponsor for change”, such as a chief data or digital officer, can help to smooth this process.

Some 66% of the businesses that took part in the survey said they do not have executives with responsibility for digital transformation initiatives. A lack of skills during the discovery phase of a project was cited as one of the most widespread inhibitors of change, according to KCom.

A recent Gartner study predicted that, by 2021, 80% of midsize to large enterprises will have changed their culture to accelerate their digital transformation strategy. But in KCom’s study, 58% of organisations named lack of skills as one of the top five obstacles they faced when trying to run a digital transformation project.

Despite many examples of how companies such as Google learn from failure, there is also a sense that people involved in such projects fear failure. The KCom survey found that 28% believe failure is frowned upon or career limiting.

Read more about project management

  • Gartner CIO survey shows digital business is changing mindsets and culture at organisations that are successful in transformation.
  • Two digital officers weigh in on why the term “failing fast” doesn’t work for their organisations.

The KCom Enterprise report said: “Organisations need to ensure change is supported and not stifled from within. To do this, they must have access to skills, proven methods and experience, from the beginning of the process to guide them in the right direction.”

Stephen Long, managing director at KCom, said: “It is positive to see that organisations recognise some of the challenges holding them back. However, too many are stopped from giving their all to innovation projects by fear of failure.”

He added that a failed project might reveal new insights or approaches that are far more wide-reaching than first envisioned.

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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