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Six types of IT project failure

Michael Krigsman shares a list of six categories of IT project failure. What failure root causes would you add to the list?

This is a guest post from Michael Krigsman of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Michael on his ZDNet blog IT Project Failures, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Projects fail for many different reasons, so I took notice when reading a blog post that describes six specific categories of failure. I thought the list worth sharing because it's a clever way to view the problem.

This list comes hot off the press from the Preventing Project Failure blog (gotta love the title) written by Michiko Diby, Principal at project resolution firm Sealight:

  • Intent Failure - Occurs when the project doesn't bring enough added value or capability to beat down the obstacles inherent throughout the process. This suggests the original intent of the project was flawed from the beginning.
  • Sponsor Failure - Occurs when the person heading up the project is not actively engaged and/or does not have the authority to make decisions critical to project success.
  • Design and Definition/Scope Failure - Occurs when the scope is not clearly defined, so the project team is unclear on deliverables.
  • Communications Failure - Occurs when communications are infrequent or honest discussion of project problems and issues are avoided.
  • Project Discipline Failure - Occurs when process/project methodology is allowed to lapse so that the mitigation factors inherent in the process are never used.
  • Supplier/Vendor Failure - Occurs when the structure of supplier /vendor relationships doesn't allow for communication and adjustments.

Categorizing failure by type is an interesting way to bring attention to root causes. Although the list does not break new ground in pinpointing sources of failure, if offers a convenient way to discuss the problem. For a contrasting approach to slicing and dicing causes, see my post 7 fundamentals of IT project success.

Poor communication and mismatched expectations lie at the root of many failures, so we should welcome any serious efforts that raise the profile of these issues. If categorizing failures makes it easier for folks to discuss challenging situations then it's helpful indeed.

What would you add to the list of failure root causes?

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