Published here December, 2008.

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Small Projects and Support Work | Downside | Summary


In Chapter 1, Authors Bennet and Lee make a great play as to Why IT Efforts Fail[15], some of them spectacularly. The public record on this phenomenon is well known. However, most of these reports take the criteria of time and cost as the basis for the record of success or failure. In our view, this is a very narrow perspective. Surely the most important thing is whether the project delivered a product that actually added satisfactory value (i.e. realized benefits) to the organization in one way or another so that the project was worthwhile? In other words, unless you first define what constitutes project success and failure, the numbers are meaningless. After all, most IT shops operate on a fiscal budget basis, rather than a complete project budget basis. So, if the final cost is even known, an overrun is simply an entry in last year's financial statement.

The time parameter, on the other hand, is probably more significant. But from the descriptions of how work is handled in most IT shops, failure of IT projects to complete on time is probably more a matter of how the organization is set up and run, than it is of the failure of project management. (See discussion earlier under Small Projects and Support Work.)

The authors do not provide a Glossary of Terms and we had some difficulty grasping the authors' distinction between an Issue and a project Risk. In our view, at least in project management terminology, Issues may be defined as: "Events that are currently affecting the ability of a project to produce the required deliverables."[16] By comparison, Project Risks may be defined as "Those factors that may cause a failure to meet the project's objectives."[17] In other words, an Issue is a Risk Event that has already occurred, i.e. whose time has come. So technically, the "Issues" described are really potential Project Risks and do not become Issues until the risk events actually occur.

As the authors point out, an issue can be either a problem or an opportunity. However, they choose to focus only on the negative issues since these often lead to IT failure.[18] While that is true, we would have been pleased to hear of the authors' experience in which they managed to turn some typical issues or problems into opportunities. After all, the greatest successes are born of opportunities - not failures.

Small Projects and Support Work  Small Projects and Support Work

15. Ibid, p5, & Appendix A: The Results of a Survey on IT Issues, p311
16. Westland, J., The Project Management Life Cycle, Kogan Page, London, 2006
17. Wideman, R. M., Project Management Glossary, version 4.2 [D01502]
18. Lientz, Bennet, P., & Lee Larssen, Risk Management for IT Projects, p9
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