An Adaptive and Preemtive Strategy for Improving the Assessment and Prediction of Systemic IT Project Failure Trends ("AdaPIT")




Stoica, Rosana R.

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“The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created” (Albert Einstein). Information Technology (IT) systems have become an important competitive element across the great majority of industries, and technology projects are getting entrenched within all domains becoming larger and encompassing cross functional and organizational components (which has become even more relevant through globalization impacts). This increased technological dependency and transformation also increases the risk to organizations as a whole if something goes wrong. Pragmatically things often do go wrong and despite the evolution and sophistication of project management frameworks and methodologies (supported by ever growing tools, processes, certification requirements and procedures) a great percentage of IT projects are still failing. This phenomenon has been an observable and pervasive trend since its inception as subsequent chapters will support. Although multiple actions have attempted to address this costly and prevailing trend, they have yet to positively and/or consistently impact the extent of the trend, although it has imposed additional management burdens and costly compliance requirements along the way. Organizations are faced with the adoption of ever growing (and changing) project management frameworks, regulatory mandates, certifications and methodologies requirements attempting to overcome this trend which has yielded only nominal (if any) positive impacts as evidence ascertains. As the projections for IT investment increase by a magnitude of 3.5% (annual average) and IT project failures report losses in the billions (Gartner, 2011), it is anticipated that this trend will become ever steeper in the coming years. This problem and the magnitude of its reported impact demand researchers and practitioners alike take a hard look at how this problem has been understood and unveil the root causes driving this trend. This assessment must commence by evaluating the way that IT projects have been conducted historically and encourage holistic approaches in order to effectively identify, rectify and ultimately prevent this systemic matter by means of targeting its root cause and not symptomatic factors reported as failure “causes” to date. The alarming (and increasing) rates of IT Project Failure (Stoica & Brouse, 2012) are strong indicators that this systemic trend has not yet been addressed from a causal perspective. With this objective in mind, I have proposed and designed a research approach investigating this trend from unique lens integrating Grounded Theory, Social Theory and Systems Dynamic principles within a Multi-method construct. The study capitalizes its support against Field Methods within Social Sciences (Guest at al., 2006). Literature review conducted within this research reveals a gap exploring social factors within the IT project construct. A significant point to be explored is that this gap is a key contributor for IT project failure from a causal (“basis”) perspective hence the introduction of the Social Theory in the research framework. Furthermore, much of the research on IT projects to date addresses “success” factors with no account of or emphasis on “failures” and their respective root causes nor their relevance and applicability within the project phases. This research introduces “Adaptive Experimentation” (overarching umbrella for the proposed four-phased research multi- method approach) supporting an integrated research framework encompassing a Grounded Theory foundation, a lens “calibrated” through Social Theory and phenomenological dynamics sustained by Systems Thinking philosophy and methods. The foundation (Grounded Theory) exposes potential theoretical “blind spots” unexplored to date (unbiased identification, classification and support of key – “binding” - elements operating within the IT project construct – or “agents” (“categories”)) and explores this systemic matter from a social perspective (as I consider projects a microcosm of a living organization impacted by social forces enacted by any system incorporating the “people” constituent). The concept of IT Intangible Social Factors (IFSs) is introduced, and although from a pure Grounded Theory perspective no pre- defined hypothesis should drive the discovery process, I (with over 2 decades of field experience and hard lessons within IT projects and programs) have been motivated by the disposition that the ISF’s are the key factors influencing and driving project outcomes (hence their successes or failures).