Having a higher rate of IT project failures could be good for your organisation, making it more efficient more rapidly.

Businesses that experience a larger percentage of schemes that go wrong are likely to develop a culture of experimentation and should become more adept at identifying the likely success or failure of projects earlier in their life, according to analyst firm Gartner.

Project managers who take an approach that accepts failure rates of between one in five and one in three will ultimately end up making technology more responsive to business conditions.

In the present uncertain economic climate, increased risks cannot be completely mitigated and are inherent in many projects that need to be undertaken, Audrey Apfel, managing vice president at Gartner, said in a statement.

“By having the courage to accept failure and move on, you are more likely to minimise your losses, learn from your mistakes, and make the organisation more efficient, more quickly,” Apfel said.

Project management failings

Current common practices in project and portfolio management are failing to meet present needs, she said.

“Continued cost pressures on most IT organisations will force IT and project and portfolio management leaders to rethink how they deal with increasing demands on an already overburdened workforce. Steady rates of project failure will lead [them] and customers to accept a certain level of failure,” she said.

Changing attitudes to project management and failure will also result in an improved ability to develop business cases and planning, according to Gartner. It will lead to the introduction of mechanisms to support that new mentality.

Early warning systems, stage or phase gates, and frequent reviews by unbiased individuals will become normal practice and help organisations to pull out early from projects that are failing.

In the past, improvements to project management have focused on processes, using tools for standardisation and optimisation. This approach improves things in 80 percent of cases, but creates a false sense of security in the remaining instances, Gartner said.

Comparing costs and outcomes against plans in high-risk and complex environments leads to project failures that are late and costly.