A Management Perspective on the Failure of IS&T Projects

A Management Perspective on the Failure of IS&T Projects

Udechukwu Ojiako (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa), Stuart Maguire (University of Sheffield, UK) and Melanie Ashleigh (University of Southampton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/jitpm.2012070101
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Abstract

The objective of the paper is to present a clear management perspective on how IS&T project failure may be conceptualised within this management dispensation. Current knowledge on a generalised process for management control (expectations perspective), is used in the re-affirmation of the concept of Information Systems and Technology (IS&T) project failure.
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Industry Peculiarities

Traditional IS&T projects are facing unprecedented challenges. This is a major reason why customers now expect that as a routine, IS&T projects should deliver measurable efficiencies. The emergence of the twenty first century stakeholder and client (Petersen & Murphree, 2004), has also impacted such projects. This client type is highly intelligent (Aritua, Smith, & Bower, 2009), empowered and informed. These customer types are also less loyal to individual suppliers (Erridge & McIlroy, 2002) and will unashamedly demand high accountability and value in terms of project delivery.

A discerning review of quality journals between 1980 and 2009 on the topic appears to indicate that IS&T project failure has attracted detailed research interest, especially as these projects are often associated with a high failure rate (Auditor General of Canada, 2006; Ewusi-Mensah, 2007) driven by time and cost overruns. For example, estimates put forward by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (2006) suggest (based on data from a review of large IS&T projects funded publicly between 2004 and 2006), that only about 28 per cent of such projects may be termed ‘successful.’ In terms of classification of ‘failure’ and ‘success‘, studies (Lesca & Caron-Fasan, 2008; Oz & Sosik, 2000) examining how decisions on whether to abandon or terminate IS&T projects were made suggest that not only is failure and abandonment determined by combinations of factors, but that its paradoxical nature (for example the decision to abandon when costs outweighs attributed benefits), creates a crisis of choice for project management practitioners and scholars. On the other hand, others (Aritua, Smith, & Bower, 2009) have emphasised the question of interpretation regarding success and failure, with the debate focusing on projects which are successful, not a project which has been abandoned without being regarded as a failure (such as projects which are deferred). At present, studies on IS&T project failure had been substantially developed along three main fronts: (i) the first dealt with how the decision to abandon a project was made (Ewusi-Mensah & Przasnyski, 1991), (ii) the second focused on critical success factors (Birks, Nasirin, & Zailani, 2003; Oz &Sosik, 2000; Yeo, 2002) while the third (iii) focused on softer factors that influenced situations where it was determined that failure had occurred (Gauld, 2007; Jani, 2008; Pan & Pan, 2006).

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