Business & Finance
Commentary
7/3/2003
05:39 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
Commentary
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Editor's Note: It's All In How You Apply Technology

Thanks to the many readers who wrote in this past week about the failure rate of IT projects (see "Adapt Or Prepare To Pay The Price"). Some were quick to point out that a 30% failure rate is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, says Steven Van Dyke of Kansas City, Mo., "A large part of the 'failures' in IT projects are simply indications that businesses rely on their IT departments to do things that have never been tried before, at least by that company. The fact that only a third of these 'let's try this' projects 'fail' is actually a tribute to the abilities of the IT industry."

Another adds, "The IT department has to fit dozens of incompatible new technologies under different licensing schemes together into a seamless whole to be used by people of widely differing backgrounds. It's all about research, invention, innovation, and, yes, risk. If such an enterprise can achieve a 70% success rate, that's a bloody miracle."

Well said. In fact, let me be clear. I'm not trying to put all the blame on the IT folks charged with developing and building world-class organizations. Perhaps failures come from lack of resources, inadequate funding, poor performance measures, or buggy software.

In many cases, technology is the easy part. The tough part is how you apply it to your business, how you optimize your processes, how you find new levels of collaboration, how you reduce risk, how you become more competitive, how you please your customers more, and how you constantly seek innovation.

Here's what some other readers had to say:

"Internally, we in IT must demand better from our own departments. At the same time, we also need to demand proper support from our suppliers and products that work almost exactly like they're advertised."

"The reason most of these failures occur has to do with the difficulties people have with change. The new system is invariably different than what was used before, and there always seem to be folks who take any minor glitch as an opportunity to point out how 'it'll never work' and revert to their old ways."

OK, so while many readers have me convinced that a 30% failure rate really isn't that bad, I'll still argue that failure to react to change could lead to a lot worse than an IT project gone bad.

Stephanie Stahl
Editor
sstahl@cmp.com


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Stephanie Stahl's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Stephanie Stahl, please visit her page on the Listening Post.

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