Why Do IT Projects Have Such a Bad Reputation?

Why do IT projects have such a bad reputation? Why do IT projects sometimes fall short of expectations? Let’s take a closer look.

The Problem

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

IT projects have a bad reputation in many companies. Talking with executives from various industries will get a similar reaction. Some of the common issues cited by these executives include missed deadlines, cost overruns, and higher-than-estimated maintenance costs. These same problems have been reported for at least a couple of decades. Even when IT projects have met stated expectations, these executives will say they don’t believe the data.

The question comes down to whether IT projects just naturally come with these kinds of problems, or if it is a matter of managing these projects better. The reality is that it is a combination of both.

The Solution

Let’s look at five solutions that address these IT problems:

  • Change the framing of IT projects. IT projects really are business projects that leverage technology to enable them. There is almost no IT project that impacts only the IT department. Success means that the rest of the business has to own their part in the project as well.
  • Communicate expectations and deliverables in concrete, objective terms. Many IT projects come with vague goals like “improve efficiency” or “make the work simpler.” Objectives must be more concrete. For example, objectives should read like these: “lower manpower by 1.5 headcount” or “lower call times by 20 seconds.”
  • Manage expectations as well as the project. Many executives think CIOs are great at managing IT projects, but they are not so successful at managing project expectations. Active expectation management would improve the reputation of the IT department in many companies.
  • Connect IT projects to business value. In some companies, there is a major disconnect between the cost of an IT project and the value it brings to the business. Identifying that value and communicating it to the project stakeholders will help manage expectations better.
  • Empower CIOs to become IT’s biggest marketer. Internal marketing is not a bad thing. The company’s CIO should be the biggest cheerleader. Telling the rest of the company how much value the IT projects bring is a positive that can make the projects actually go easier.

IT projects do come with inherent problems. That is the nature of the beast. The problem is that poor project management and a lack of expectation management has given the IT world a bad reputation for delivering valuable projects– on time and in budget. With a few solid solutions, that can change. It is not easy, but it can be done.