22.3.11

Why IT Systems fail: a Risk Breakdown Structure

Whenever I heard about a bad IT application implementation, I was told it was because of the technology, or the stability of the application, or the performance.

Actually, I do believe IT systems fail for three main reasons, none of which refers to technology: business problems, discipline problems and human problems.

IT Systems implementation fail for lack of rules. That is, a program or a programmer needs a set of rules that can be transformed in machine instructions; they can eve handle a limited amount of exceptions of the rules, but when no rule is available, or exceptions make the rule just another case, then the problem is in the business, not in the IT system.

More then often, the key users are not willing to change their style or becoming more disciplined for the sake of the new system. Depending on their background, they will not understand the need to be rigorous and structured because their mind is simply not working that way.

Human problems affect projects dearly. Hidden agendas, fear, change aversion can result in no functional commitment, delays in problem solving, politics issues and conflicting priorities between executives, line managers and project managers (IT Vendor's included).

In the current technology environment, it is very rare that you have blocking technical problems. And when you do, consider yourself lucky, because solving technical problems is only science, dependent on you and your team. Business, discipline or human problems on the other hand require a lot of art, convincing, influencing. In the case of IT problems, it's Bam! you found the solution and it works. But with human issues you need to be persistent so that the change takes place and is maintained.

Below is a Risk Breakdown Structure showing the importance of the other risks as opposed to the technical ones:
So whenever you hear a system failed because of poor technology, don't you believe it!

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