Why IT projects still fail

Despite strategic alignment among IT and business leaders, technical and transformational initiatives still fall flat at an alarming rate. Here’s how IT can learn from its mistakes.

Why IT projects still fail

If the statistics are right, success for many technology projects remains elusive.

Research from Boston Consulting Group, for example, has found that 70% of digital transformations fall short of their objectives. Similarly, the 2020 Global Application Modernization Business Barometer Report found that 74% of organizations that had started a legacy system modernization project failed to complete it, consistent with the 70% rate of failure McKinsey & Co. reported several years ago.

Although very few tech initiatives are a complete bust, CIOs and executive advisors say only a minority of IT and tech-led transformation projects deliver their full anticipated value. Some of these projects don’t generate the expected returns. Others don’t meet user needs. Still others don’t enable the full range of hoped-for capabilities.

Sometimes projects fall short on technical components; for example, they may be prone to glitches or incapable of matching demand — as websites built for COVID vaccine signups have shown.

“They can fail technologically, or you can have projects that are technically sound but aren’t the right solutions for the business,” Greg Stam, managing director for advisory services, the management consulting arm at Ahead, says of what failure looks like for IT projects today.

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