Why Do Strategic IT Change Projects Fail?

Wednesday 27 February, 2019

The ability to plan out, implement and measure the success of strategic change is a key area that organisations need to get better at if they hope to stay afloat during the times of disruption that are on the horizon.

The importance of strategic organisational change cannot be downplayed. After all, if an organisation is standing still not making any changes, then it is essentially going backwards.

Staggeringly, in our 2019 CIO and IT Leadership Survey, only 6% of respondents reported that over the last two years all of their organisation’s strategic IT change projects have met initial objectives, indicating that somewhere along the line something is going wrong.

Crucial to the success of any change is guaranteed support from the senior management team, as this provides reassurance to those responsible for managing the change that this is the correct move for the wider business.


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Leadership and the business-IT relationship has undoubtedly been an issue in recent times, with over seven in ten respondents (71%) citing at least one of: the business strategy/plan changing, senior management not being completely bought into the change, or not taking enough risks, as a reason for failure – see graph.

The importance of objective success / failure criteria

We firmly believe that large organisations need to get back to basics. Fewer than two in ten (18%) of the respondents that we surveyed told us that their company always sets objective success/ failure criteria for initiatives in advance. In our view this should form the foundations of any strategic change that is set to be implemented.

This is especially pertinent when coupled with the fact that almost a quarter (24%) of respondents, from companies where at least some degree of failure has been experienced with strategic change projects over the last two years, report a reason for failure was that the metrics for success were not clearly defined.

Without criteria for success and failure in place or knowing how you are going to measure the effectiveness of a strategy, then really there is no point in deploying the strategy at all.

Recommendations

Reviewing all of the answers to our survey, we can consolidate this into three clear recommendations for any organisation:

• Focus on good IT/business relationships and establishing clear links between IT services and business outcomes to drive buy in and help shape business plans

• Review corporate attitudes to risk and seek to establish areas where a different approach could help improve services

• Define metrics / measures to help mitigate high risk through the use of fail-fast and ‘test and learn’ mentalities. 

 

Read our 2019 CIO and IT Leadership Survey on Strategic Change, Technology and Disruption. 

 

Read more about our Change Delivery capabilities.