80% of IT Projects Fail.

I was doing research for my Infotech Niagara lunch ‘n learn and I kept seeing this statistic over and over….80% of IT projects fail.

Now I’ve been in IT for a long time and I gotta say that there’s no way 80% of the projects I’ve been on have failed. I don’t think any reputable computer firm would be in business long if their mantra was; “Lets make you one of the 20% that succeeds”. That’s not real encouraging.

What is “failure”? If a project comes in over budget by 10%, or it runs over by 2 weeks or a few of the bells and whistles had to be eliminated from the software, is that a failure? If they are taking a hard-line like that, then maybe 80% is justified. Projects can be a failure from a purely sterile project management point of view, but still be a roaring success in the real business world. I don’t believe 80% of all IT projects end in failure…at least not for the end customer that’s using it.

The statistic that really scares me is one I just read that says “54% of all IT projects are obsolete by the time they finish”. Woah! To me, this is huge. This could happen for a number of reasons:

The project took so long that the technology is no longer valid.

The business need for the project no longer exists.

Poor management allowed so much scope creep that the end product doesn’t look anything like the proposed output.

Lack of Sr. Management support did not allow the appropriate resources to flow to the project.

and on and on.

As a Project Management Professional, it pains me to see projects so mismanaged that they end in any kind of failure. While the discipline of project management is starting to come of age, most Management people I talk with still don’t buy into the value of organized project management. Paying for a project manager and the time it takes to manage a project to a successful completion is not something most people want to spend their money on.

How do you see organized project management in the current IT world?

If you have any IT project management questions you’d like to throw my way, don’t hesitate to drop me a line at ggartland@gartlandtech.com, or add me to your linkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/gregorygartland


3 Responses

  1. I would like to propose a comprehensive article on the subject: Most IT Projects Fail: Will Yours? Here’s the link: http://www.pmhut.com/most-it-projects-fail-will-yours

    It’s also worthy to note that failure causes are not the same at different maturity levels.

  2. I agree with you Gregory. Also have some perspective. I guess if it’s down to being on time, budget and scope within an allowed margin of error (+/- X%) then…

    100% of building projects fail – when did an electrician ever fix something on time?

    100% of marketing projects fail – when did a marketing campaign ever bring in exactly the results desired for a nice price?

    100% of missions to Mars – when did they ever not hit a glitch in the solar panels, rocket system, on-board navigation

    I’m sure they all go outside planned limits.


    100% of lives fail. And thats the fun of it.

  3. […] wreaking havoc under the covers. (In May, Greg Gartland posted an article here stating that 80% of IT projects fail.) I’ll add that there may be catastrophic failure or many small errors or the need for many […]

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