IT Project Management Failures

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In January 2007, the Los Angeles Unified School District flipped the switch on a $95 million system built on SAP software customized by Deloitte Consulting. The system was intended to replace a mishmash of outdated technology with a streamlined system for tracking earnings and issuing paychecks for 95,000 teachers, principals, custodians and other district employees. But it was doomed from day one, done in by technology glitches, inaccurate and often conflicting data from the old system, inadequate employee training, and infighting and lack of internal oversight within the district, among other problems. The trouble was apparent from the first month the new software went live. Some teachers were underpaid, some overpaid and some had their names completely erased from the system. It took a year and another $37 million in repairs for the school district to work out the kinks. In November 2008, the district and Deloitte settled a dispute over the work, with the contractor agreeing to repay $8.25 million and forgive $7 million to $10 million in unpaid invoices to put the matter to rest.

According to the article, HR IT projects have a pretty high rate of failure. Michael Krigsman, who writes the IT Project Failures blog for ZDNet, says, “Depending on the statistics you read, 30 percent to 70 percent of these projects will be late, over budget or don’t deliver the planned scope.” The Workforce article outlined several reasons for the specific failure of the above project. The reasons included not having a high-level executive with IT experience dedicated to the project (the district’s original point person was a COO with little computer experience) and the old system was riddled with errors. Also, HR IT projects are very complex. But Krigsman made an interesting point when talking about such projects. He said the reasons for the problems are usually not technical; they’re “organizational, political and cultural in nature in almost every case.”
The most simplistic definition of project success and failure views looks merely schedule and budget – projects delivered on time and within planned costs are deemed successful. However, this definition ignores value, making it a convenient, although incomplete and misleading, indicator of genuine project success. For example, consider a project where scope changes because stakeholders agree additional value is possible through incremental increases in cost and time. From a strict control perspective, such a project might be called failure, despite substantial benefit to the line of business. Conversely, IT may believe an on-time project to be successful, despite line of business perception that little value was actually delivered.

The majority of the key stakeholders in these articles were the tax payers. Because the glitches where overlooked by the testing phase; the tax payer put forth the resources to fix the glitches in the system. The overall organization influence by which the neglecting came about caused severe damage to the credibility of the life cycle of the project. Sometimes it’s not about meeting the goals in a timely manner, but completing the job as promised the way it was written. Cutting corners is not the way to make a job become successful, because it normally leads you to more involved issues later on down the road.