Reasons Information Technology System Projects Fail Research Paper

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Information Technology System Projects Fail

Information system projects mostly end up in a failure. Along with inherent factors such as technical issues delaying implementation and indefinable expectations of customers, inappropriate budgeting and opposition to business process reengineering also makes the project go up in smoke. (Scott and Vessey, 2002) The first step towards a project's success is its objectives which should be specific, measurable and realistic. Researchers have previously emphasized on the importance of defined objectives and highlighted that approximately 50-70% of projects fail due to objectives being vague and uncertain. Shortly thereafter, the significance of budgeting was also highlighted in a 1998 fortune article which stated that around 90% of ERP projects are delayed as costs go beyond the amount estimated, and even after all these hurdles, only one-third of ERP projects prove to be successful. This is a notable calamity which affects the entire world; one of the most affected nations being China where ERP failures are predicted to be around 90%. (Zhang et al., 2003)

To this date, we have not come across any evidence that can give us some surety that the problems are close to extinction; not that they are overlooked by researchers but the fact that success rates haven't changed leaves us in a dilemma.

IS Projects and their Success

As advocated by Tornatzky and Fleischer (1990), there are three components that can be associated to the success of IS (Information Systems) applications; the external environment, organizational context and technological context. Where the external environment signifies the effect of customers, suppliers, competitors and government, organizational and technological context focuses mainly on the internal factors influencing a project. The technological framework points out how problems in hardware, software and telecommunication lead to a project's failure. On the contrary, factors such as corporate culture, leadership and IS based knowledge are included in the organizational context.

As mentioned earlier, the problem of IS failure was not ignored by researchers; as a result different writers have different theories giving various reasons of why projects fall short. Kumar, (2000) who is a predecessor of ERP implementation, is of the view that organizational framework plays the most important part in IS development. Certain aspects of organizational structure for instance, its culture and attitude of senior management are crucial to a project's success. Lack of synergy in an organization, unprofessional attitude from senior management, and incompetent leadership are three prerequisites that make the project a sinking ship.

As leadership surpasses all other organizational factors, it would not be wrong to establish it as a single endorser to any project's downfall (Roepke, Agarwal, and Ferratt, 2000).

Organizational factors can be explained in the form of a paradigm, with leadership being in the centre affecting all other components, such as culture, strategy and staff commitment. Along with these constituents, it also impinges on system development, implementation and maintenance. A strong and competent leadership can enhance the success rates of IS projects. Therefore, it should be given due consideration. To classify it as a Critical Success Factor in theoretical books is not the answer to this solution, researchers should dig into this concept, analyze it further and leave no stone unturned. This is a key to all solutions, an answer to all questions, but a lot of hard work is required to make it work as all aspects of leadership, including its meaning, challenges faced in IS development, various forms of leadership to assess which style suits the situation and also the way it has to deal with external influences.

Why Information Technology Systems Projects Fail

Despite the fact that primary focus has always been on successful IS developments, the literature is stuffed with various cases pertaining to IS breakdown (Oz and Sosik, 2000).

There are a number of editorials that present us with a detailed scrutiny of such illustrations. The starting point of any research is surveillance, which is either based on conventional presumptions such as self-justification and escalation theory or on the archives of similar assignments in past.

Whether it's general project risk or IS research risk, the spotlight has always been on the underlying factors that boost the chances of disappointment. Amongst other researchers, Barki, Rivard and Talbot's (1993) work is worth mentioning as their study of IS risk literature acknowledged five components that are related to project risk; one of these components being ineffective communication which was given the name of "Organizational environment." This is further accentuated by earlier study (Oz, 2000) where the significance of senior management involvement and effectual communication is backed up by practical examples. Hence, it appears that weak communication skills create a gap between different stakeholders of the project; making it difficult for them to comprehend the needs and requirements of other parties involved and results in the project being a dead duck. With all the attention given to communication, we should not overlook the additional contributor of a project's failure; incompetent leadership which is also termed as "Corporate management support"

Influences of Corporate Leadership

Corporate leadership revolves around the constituents that will smooth the progress of a particular project. It consists of three stages; Planning stage which takes into account setting of goals and objectives, Resource allocation falls into the second stage where one should prioritize its activities to ensure effective allocation of limited resources available, and the last stage being the implementation stage where senior management should also focus on conflict resolution along with dealing with technical issues involved. Therefore, the role of corporate leadership is essential to the success of IS project teams. A detailed analysis of the leadership function specifies that along with commencement of a project and its arrangement, contemplation of team member's requirements also fall into the scope of its responsibilities. When one talks about commencement of a project, it is implied that the overall work ethics will be considered. This will include the desired outcome of the project and how it can be achieved. It will also take into account the role of leader in the group and what is expected of him. On the contrary contemplation of team member's requirements points out the team leader's responsibilities towards his group. This means that the leader should be concerned about the professional and personal development of team members and ensure that their personal goals coincide with those of the project. Bass (1990) and Yukl (1998) have recapitulated a vast amount of practical illustrations on this matter which highlights that if leader is active rather than passive and fulfills these two roles with sincerity and commitment, the project will go up the ladder. In conjunction with the success of project, a dynamic and energetic leader will create a special bond between the team members and the project, such that personal goals of members are linked with the outcome of the project. The fact that members own the project can be used as an essential analyst of the progress of project. In this way, any variance in team's performance will be enlightened more than other indicators such as external communication and cohesiveness.

It is important to commune the aim of a project to its team members as it constitutes a vital part in the overall project progression. As mentioned above, it is the team leader's responsibility to commence a project and to inform group members of what is to be achieved and what is expected of team members in order to reach that goal. This removes any confusion in the minds of team members. Leadership has been an active subject for researchers. Stein and Heller (2002) combined various studies on leadership and communication theories and came to the conclusion that the attribute of leaders to clearly express the goals of a project is one of the many elements of task-related leadership. Oz and Sosik (2000) further confirmed this point arguing that if team leader is inactive, members will not be fully aware of the goals and the end result will be a disaster. Another earlier evaluation of this topic revealed that lively environment within the team is directly related to clear expression of goals. These theories contradicted with laissez-faire attitude of team, denoted by hushed communication and vague expectations (Oz, 2000).

The reasons that lead to a project's success or failure have been explained above. If these factors can be avoided at an initial stage, the success rates are likely to improve. Success of a project is facilitated by effectual project management practices. As evident from the word itself, project management services include all the tasks necessary to manage a project, and incorporates all aspects of project starting from the management of communication and the end point being to ensure project meets the required standards, is completed on time and all resources are utilized efficiently. Along with this, we should not forget the significance of communication within the team, as mentioned earlier, the articulation of goals and expectations is a key to success. To ensure that the project meets deadlines, mini deadlines can be set for each separate task…

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