Why Most IT Projects Are Doomed

All political leanings aside, over the last 7 weeks, we’ve heard numerous stories about the launch of Healthcaregov and the overwhelming number of error messages, log in woes, overloaded servers and frozen screens.

IT projects fail all the time.

Healthcare.gov is no different.

McKinsey and Company’s 2010 research suggests half of large IT projects (defined as $15 million or more) run 45% over budget and deliver 56% less value than predicted.


It’s easy to speculate why Healthcare.gov finds itself in a similar mess.

  • (Un)Coordination and (mis)communication across 55 vendors
  • Constantly changing requirements
  • Lack of testing
  • Difficulty connecting old and new servers so they talk to each other
  • Lack of transparency with coding
  • Government bureaucracy

 Factors for IT Success

The Standish Group and its years of research on IT project delivery, found in 2010, the number one reason for project failure was poor executive leadership and an unhealthy project environment.

The Standish Group finds the top IT project success factors are:

  • Executive Management Support
  • User Involvement
  • Clear Business Objectives
  • Emotional Maturity
  • Optimization
  • Agile Process
  • Project Management Expertise
  • Skilled Resources
  • Execution
  • Tools and Infrastructure

It’s not server overload, integration issues, coding mistakes, lame user interfaces or missed deadlines that doom these expensive, complex projects.

It’s strong (or weak) sponsorship, smart (or dumb or nonexistent) partnering with users and stakeholders, and clearly (or never) anchoring back to a business objective that determines success (or failure).

Unfortunately those factors are much more difficult to upload and code.

Marta Steele is a Partner at PeopleResults. Connect with her on Twitter @MartaSteele or through email at msteele@www.people-results.com.