There is still a place for giant tech projects that take years to complete – as long as they are managed well and regularly deliver benefits along the way, according to’s exclusive CIO Jury.

During the recession, organisations slashed their IT budgets and insisted on a fast return on investment for any technology projects – usually within six months to a year.

In addition, there has been a perception that multi-year IT projects – in particular those within central government – have a poor track record in terms of delivering benefits. These two factors combined have led some to suggest that businesses have lost their appetite for large-scale tech projects, even when the economy picks up and budgets become available again.

But CIOs still believe there is a place for bigger projects – so long as they are managed properly and the benefits are delivered in regular stages.

Asked ‘are multi-year IT projects always doomed to failure?’,’s exclusive CIO Jury voted no by a margin of eight to four.

According to Chris Ford, director of information and technology at Nottingham City Council, as long as big, multi-year projects have “strong and consistent business leadership and programme management” then there is “no reason why they should not succeed”.

Mike Roberts, IT director at the London Clinic, added: “As long as the deliverables are staged across time to keep the stakeholders interested and the change management is effective, the projects should be successful.” Roberts, however, did sound a note of caution: “Watch out for scope creep and absent sponsors!”

IT's multi-year mega project is here to stay

Strong oversight is key to the success of mega-projects, CIOs believe
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Another problem that can affect long projects is the requirements of most businesses will have changed between the time of sign-off and the deployment some years later, said Graham Benson, IT director at M and M Direct. “This leads to a raft of change requests, which extend the project timescale and overrun the budget,” he warned.

Madhushan Gokool, IT manager at Storm Model Management, added with large multi-year projects, the turnover of staff is often high. “Smaller, more targeted projects, which would contribute to a large multi-year project would be the way forward,” he said.

Graham Yellowley, technology lead equities at LCH.Clearnet, said mega-projects are no longer going to be the default option for IT departments: “Behemoth projects that take many years with a single outcome are now going to be the exception rather than the norm.”

Instead, smaller projects providing a ROI within 12 months are the future, he said. Projects that take more than a year will still exist, according to Yellowley, but with “staged deliverables” to demonstrate a ROI at least every 12 months.

Peter Birley, director of IT and business operations at Browne Jacobson LLP, said it is recognised that projects should, in general, be kept within the year. “Going over that does bring in extra risk but if they are phased [in] or part of a programme and managed accordingly then the risk can be reduced.”

Today’s CIO Jury was:

  • Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
  • Graham Benson, IT director, M and M Direct
  • Peter Birley, director of IT and business operations, Browne Jacobson LLP
  • Chris Ford, director of information and technology, Nottingham City Council
  • Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
  • Madhushan Gokool, IT manager, Storm Model Management
  • Graeme Martin, director of IT, GMAC-RFC
  • Nick Masterson-Jones, director of IT, VocaLink
  • Jacques René, CIO, Ascend
  • Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
  • Richard Storey, head of IT, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
  • Graham Yellowley, technology lead equities, LCH.Clearnet

Want to be part of’s CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT departments? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to join’s CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then drop us a line at