Clare Murray of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, who advises organisations on tackling technology challenges, failings and conflict, was commenting after a recent survey of project managers found revealed that they believe nearly 40% of IT projects in the UK are likely to fail.
According to the survey by Axelos, 49% of the 182 respondents said they believed a lack of clearly defined goals is a factor in why IT projects fail. Other factors cited were significant changes to the project brief, unrealistic timeframes, an incomplete understanding of the risks, a lack of involvement from the right personnel and overrun budgets, a report on the survey by The Register said.
The Axelos survey follows on from analysis carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO) which was published last year which found that 37 out of 106 major UK government projects planned for completion by 2021 were "in doubt or unachievable".
Murray said, though, that while change is inevitable, failure is not.
"Organisations cannot underestimate how critical it is to get things right from the outset," Murray said. "If a programme starts to stray off track and left unchecked, the costs can be high."
"It is striking that almost half of the projects fail to set the right goals. This reflects the difficulty of ensuring the organisation’s strategy becomes a business reality. There is often a break down in communication when it comes to implementation. Failure to translate these goals into delivery risks leaving it directionless. It will be difficult to assess progress, demonstrate success and realise business benefits," she said.
Murray said that the most prominent issues that respondents to the Axelos survey identified as factors behind IT projects failing could be classed as 'behavioural issues' rather than technical defects. She said this is "very much consistent" with the trends she has seen in distressed programmes and litigation.
"These vulnerabilities point to where organisations, both customers and suppliers, need to invest from the outset: planning, structure and governance," Murray said. "We are working with clients on pre-emptive solutions, ensuring they are best positioned to succeed in what is a very challenging environment."