The UK National Audit Office message is clear and unambiguous
Long and varied experience produces a deep instinct for best and worst practice, even when clear evidence does not exist. Ever since I joined Rolls-Royce Aero Engines Computer Department way back in 1957 - at the grand salary of £650 PA! - I have been fortunate to be at the heart of the revolution in the use of information in almost every aspect of our lives. In those far off days, the quickest way of killing a conversation was to say that one worked with computers. How different it is today.
The intervening decades have seen many information technologies being applied with great success, although this has too often been accompanied by horrendous unplanned costs and disruption in business and government. Many studies over those decades have identified the main causes of failure, but nevertheless little has changed except the scale of investments and the fact that problems have had increasingly serious consequences.
NAO/OGC Gateway Review Guidance - '07
COMMON CAUSES OF PROGRAMME FAILURE
- Lack of clear link between the project and the organisation's key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success.
- Lack of clear senior management and Ministerial ownership and leadership.
- Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders.
- Lack of skills and proven approach to project management and risk management.
- Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps.
- Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long-term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits).
- Lack of understanding of and contact with the supply industry at senior levels in the organisation.
- Lack of effective project team integration between clients, the supplier team and the supply chain.
Those at the top have much more to contribute
The most compelling evidence regarding the causes of failure can be found in repeated reports by the UK National Audit Office (NAO) following numerous Government IT project debacles over the years. Those reports followed a stringent forensic examination of events and their impact, and identified many issues, both managerial and cultural, that lay at the heart of failure.
Yet in spite of the NAO repeatedly identifying the same issues over the years, there continues to be little improvement in overall performance, and the same problems continue to recur time and again as though those lessons from the past mean nothing.
Unfortunately the underlying truth is that the critical importance of many of those lessons is not fully understood by those at the top in business and Government. They therefore continue to apply huge pressures to achieve unrealistic and impractical change objectives which are bound to have disastrous consequences for the ultimate success of their business change project.
The sad fact is that throughout five decades of IT stimulated business change, the change management process itself has not kept pace with technology innovation. If we are to turn this situation around, we not only need to understand where the main issues lie - as identified by the NAO - but also how to deal with them in a coherent and effective manner. We really do need a new agenda in the management of today's IT stimulated change.
Responding to this challenge not only calls for changes in process and procedure, but more importantly in the business management environment itself. That is what this website and my book The Drowning Director are all about.
"I think that there's a real need for a book with this kind of analysis and these types of messages. It has homed in on the key issues and explained them well"
Sir George Cox
Director General - the Institute of Directors (1999-2004)