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IT Project Failures

Mike HarrisFailures in IT never seem to go away. Every month the news seems to be covering a new, high-profile IT issue, many of which Jay Liebowitz enumerates in his recent IT Professional article, “IT Project Failures: What Management Can Learn.” HealthCare.gov, The National Program for IT (UK), United Airlines, the Wall Street Journal, and even the New York Stock Exchange have all experienced very public, very high-profile failures. Why?

As Liebowitz notes, many organizations blame these failures on scope, cost, and time, but they can be further categorized by process-driven, context-driven, and content-driven issues.

  • Process-driven: Those related to business planning, project management and control, strategic formulation, and the change-management process.
  • Context-driven: Those related to the information system itself (technology, system design).
  • Content-driven: Those related to the environment in which the project is being development (culture, structure, management).

One process-driven issue that is often the impetus for failure is when organizations pick the project they like the best – without taking into account the business case for that project. If you’ve been in IT long enough, you’ve seen this happen. Needless failure.

Liebowitz also points to research from Rateb Swies asserting that IT projects fail due to the following reasons (in priority order):

  1. High degree of customization (context-driven)
  2. Changes late in the design stage (process-driven)
  3. Underestimating the timeline (process-driven)

So the question, of course, is what can management do? An obvious solution, suggested by Liebowitz, is to better educate current and future IT project leaders. Specifically, I recommend the following:

  1. High degree of customization (context-driven) – Management needs to better understand the size of the project. Function points can help.
  2. Changes late in the design stage (process-driven) – Management needs to understand the impact of these changes. Better IT governance can help.
  3. Underestimating the timeline (process-driven) – Management needs to understand the probability of the estimates that they are getting. Better estimating using statistical analysis and, yes, a tool can help.

Liebowitz also suggests better coordination between business users, IT, and finance. I’ve talked about this on the blog repeatedly – the need for improved coordination between IT and the business is paramount.

We have a number of services that support this type of improvement, including Function Point Analysis, IT Governance, and the Measurement Roadmap. IT serves to support the goals of the business; if it’s not appropriately aligned with the interests of the business, then it’s not fulfilling its role and failure will be more likely.

Management has the ability and the tools available to prevent failure – so when will they start doing their part?

Read, “IT Project Failures,” here.

Mike Harris



Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00

Value Metrics for Agile Governance

Value MetricsThe software development industry has made great strides in leveraging metrics to improve performance; however, the metrics being used in Agile implementations today are often focused on the team level and not on the organization as a whole. With the proper software value visibility metrics, an organization can better manage Agile software development initiatives to ensure these investments maximize the value potential.

An article I recently wrote that discussed these value metrics was published in Techwell’s Spring 2016 edition of Better Software magazine. In the article, I set the scene by discussing current practices, beginning with examples of metrics used in a waterfall organization: delivered as promised, productivity, timeliness, quality, and accuracy. Although these metrics can be tremendously valuable in many ways, they do not provide the necessary details for governance. I also discuss the metrics challenge for Agile and the differences between Agile and waterfall metrics. 

The significance of the article truly comes in the discussion of a solution that helps organizations implement value metrics that are useful to individual Agile teams as well as proving beneficial for executives. To learn more about my proposed solution, take a few minutes to read my Better Software article. I’d welcome your thoughts on the article or ideas you have to help improve software value.

Note: You can view the complete article by clicking on this link: Value Metrics for Agile Governance. You will be asked to subscribe to Better Software. It is quick and painless. You will then have access to the article, courtesy of Better Software magazine.


Mike Harris

Written by Michael D. Harris at 08:49

Economic Governance

MikeAccording to a recent article from IEEE Software, the one thing that differentiates an enterprise with a failing Agile practice from an enterprise with a successful Agile practice is the implementation of a governance model that complements Agile. Such a model allows for quantified planning, decision making and measuring that helps to set and manage expectations.

The difference between the traditional engineering governance model and an economic model is that an economic model sets priorities and results based on changing predictions of probable outcomes of the development process. This is where Agile comes into play, as it allows project leaders to quickly react and change course for improved results. If you quantify the costs of change over time and find that your team is consistently improving, then you are becoming more Agile.

For a decade, IBM has dealt with thousands of internal Agile transformation projects. The company’s experience has led it to establish three priorities for delivering sustained improvements in software business outcomes with higher confidence:

  1. Measure change costs continuously in executable software baselines. These measurements will indicate if a project is making progress and allows for changes to be made, if necessary, to put it back on course. This is in line with the Agile principles of continuous integration and test-driven development.
  2. Steer with economics governance by managing target costs and schedules as narrowing distributions of outcomes; predicting outcomes with Bayesian reasoning; optimizing quality as a narrowing distribution of defect classes and density; and communicating progress and quality trends with honesty.
  3. Streamline overhead.

We offer both Agile and Software Metrics Solutions for those who want to start on the path towards economic governance. We have seen first-hand the positive impacts these solutions can have on a company’s time-to-delivery, quality of work and budget management.

Read the article: Economic Governance of Software Delivery.


Mike Harris
DCG President

Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00
Categories :

What Should Every Client of Outsourced Software Know About Mitigating the Risk of Project Failure?

IT Governance is key for any effective IT program or team. It's important to define what decisions need to be made, who should make them and how they should be made. This process helps in reducing risks, setting priorities and increasing communication.

One of the biggest areas that business and IT providers need to exercise strong governance over is outsourcing. Managing vendor relationships and deliverables can be a difficult process, as most of us already well know. 

But, we've got you covered! This month's Trusted Advisor report reviews the most significant risks of outsourcing software development and offers up some mitigation strategies.

Read the Report

Written by Default at 05:00

IT-Business Integration

At DCG, one of the most valuable improvements we recommend for an IT department is to focus on IT as part of the business as a whole. For the business to run efficiently and effectively and maximize revenue, it is important to minimize process bottlenecks.  People-related processes these day are almost invariably based on IT processes, so if IT processes are not smoothly integrated then bottlenecks in the business processes are inevitable.

A recent article from Baseline magazine echoed the importance of this and also noted that a lot of IT departments are “out of sync” when it comes to business integration:

  • Only 16 percent of companies say they have full levels of integration among business systems.
  • Sixty-four percent of businesses do not have a formal process for evaluating their CRM data-integration progress.
  • Sales/operations/marketing departments are responsible for nearly half of all planned IT systems investments this year.

IT touches every aspect of a business, making it that much more important for it to integrate with the business.  But integrating with the business is not enough; IT has to take responsibility for integrating within the business itself. Understandably, this isn’t easy when IT has historically been functioning on its own terms and when so many other departments now have a stake in IT – it’s hard to know where to start.

Our IT Governance Solution represents our current approach to the challenge of governance at the business-IT interface, providing guidance on the steps IT should take to reduce risk, set priorities and foster conversation regarding IT project investments between the business and IT management.

Additionally, our IT-CMF Fast Track Executive Assessment provides an evaluation of your IT organization’s ability to create business value from IT.

It’s evident that IT needs to see itself as part of the bigger picture. What are you doing to achieve that vision?


Mike Harris
DCG President

Written by Michael D. Harris at 05:00

"It's frustrating that there are so many failed software projects when I know from personal experience that it's possible to do so much better - and we can help." 
- Mike Harris, DCG Owner

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