3 Main Reasons IT Projects Fail

An IT Project Defined

An IT (Information Technology) project refers to a focused and temporary effort aimed at developing, implementing, or improving technology-based solutions to address specific business needs or challenges. IT projects involve planning, executing, and controlling various tasks to achieve defined objectives within a specified timeframe and budget. Here are some common examples of IT projects:

  • Software Development: Creating, enhancing, or maintaining software applications to automate processes, improve efficiency, or enable new capabilities.

  • System Implementation: Deploying new hardware or software systems, such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems.

  • Infrastructure Upgrades: Upgrading network infrastructure, servers, storage, and other IT components to enhance performance, security, or scalability.

  • Website or App Development: Designing and building websites, web applications, or mobile apps to provide online services or information.

  • Data Migration: Transferring data from one system or platform to another, often during system upgrades or consolidations.

  • Cloud Adoption: Migrating IT services or applications to cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud to improve scalability and cost-effectiveness.

  • Cybersecurity Projects: Implementing measures to protect systems, networks, and data from cyber threats and attacks.

  • IT Infrastructure Projects: Designing and setting up data centers, networking solutions, and server farms to support business operations.

  • Business Process Automation: Creating automated workflows or bots to streamline and optimize business processes.

  • E-commerce Initiatives: Developing and launching online stores, payment gateways, and digital marketplaces.

  • IoT (Internet of Things) Projects: Integrating smart devices and sensors to collect and analyze data for improved decision-making.

  • Data Analytics and Business Intelligence: Creating systems to gather, analyze, and visualize data to extract insights and support strategic decisions.

  • IT Service Management (ITSM) Projects: Implementing IT service management tools and practices to enhance IT support and service delivery.

  • Virtualization Projects: Implementing server, storage, or desktop virtualization to optimize resource utilization.

  • Digital Transformation Initiatives: Overhauling business processes and operations through technology adoption and integration.

  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) Projects: Implementing solutions to manage and secure mobile devices used by employees.

  • ERP Implementations: Deploying integrated enterprise resource planning systems to manage various business functions.

  • Collaboration and Communication Tools: Implementing tools like video conferencing, messaging apps, and collaborative platforms.

  • IT Training and Skill Development Programs: Creating training initiatives to upskill employees and enhance IT capabilities within the organization.

  • AI and Machine Learning Projects: Developing AI-based solutions to automate tasks, enhance decision-making, or improve customer experiences.

IT projects can vary in complexity, size, and scope, and they require careful planning, execution, monitoring, and stakeholder management to ensure successful outcomes.

Some Main Reasons IT Projects Fail

IT projects can fail for a variety of reasons, often stemming from a combination of technical, organizational, and managerial factors. Here are some of the reasons IT projects fail:

  • Unclear Objectives and Requirements: Lack of clear project objectives and requirements can lead to scope creep, where project goals keep changing, causing confusion, delays, and increased costs.

  • Poor Project Planning: Inadequate project planning, including unrealistic timelines, resource allocation, and risk assessment, can lead to missed deadlines, budget overruns, and project chaos.

  • Inadequate Resources: Insufficient resources, both in terms of skilled personnel and necessary tools, can hinder progress and lead to subpar results.

  • Scope Creep: Frequent changes to project scope without proper evaluation and management can cause project goals to become unclear and lead to missed targets.

  • Lack of Stakeholder Engagement: Failing to involve key stakeholders or getting their buy-in can result in misaligned expectations and requirements, causing project setbacks.

  • Ineffective Communication: Poor communication among team members, stakeholders, and management can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and conflicts.

  • Weak Risk Management: Ignoring potential risks or failing to manage them effectively can result in unexpected problems that derail the project.

  • Inadequate Testing and Quality Assurance: Skipping or rushing testing and quality assurance processes can result in the deployment of faulty or incomplete systems.

  • Insufficient Change Management: Not adequately preparing end-users for system changes can lead to resistance, low adoption rates, and project failure.

  • Technology Challenges: Technical issues such as software bugs, compatibility problems, or inadequate infrastructure can disrupt project progress.

  • Lack of Skilled Personnel: A shortage of skilled and experienced team members can hinder the project’s ability to execute effectively.

  • Lack of Senior Management Support: Lack of support from senior management can impact resource allocation, decision-making, and project visibility.

  • Failure to Learn from Past Mistakes: Repeating past mistakes and not learning from them can result in the same issues arising in new projects.

  • Vendor or Supplier Issues: Relying on external vendors or suppliers who fail to deliver as expected can impact project timelines and outcomes.

  • Economic and Business Environment Changes: External factors such as changes in the business environment, regulations, or economic conditions can impact project viability.

Successful project management involves addressing these potential pitfalls through thorough planning, effective communication, stakeholder engagement, risk management, continuous monitoring, and adaptability to changes.

Top 3 Main Reasons IT Projects Fail

That being said, having worked in the IT field for over 10 years, I resonated with Moira Alexander, of Chief Information Officer (CIO.com), a subsidiary of International Data Group (IDG), in her article titled Project management guide: Tips, strategies, best practices 1, when she listed the following as reasons IT projects fail:

  1. Misalignment between project goals and business strategy
  2. Unrealistic project scope or scope that is not closely controlled
  3. Vague business goals or requirements

The remaining items Alexander listed in her article may have relevance to others but for me, these jumped out at me.

Misalignment has occurred with me when management is afraid to set boundaries with clients. In software development you wireframe out all aspects of development but when managers meet with clients and let too much input enter the development process it mucks up the waters. Often times, it is because clients do not understand what all goes into programming software yet want to reserve the right to randomly add in a feature that may take months or even years to produce. Features included in software must be very specific, realistic, and useful or you have a bad end product.

When someone doesn’t understand what goes into software they begin listing off features they’ve seen in movies or heard about in a tech magazine. The truth is, when you imagine something “cool” (like unnecessary window slide-in transition in RMS software) in the middle of production you effectively cancel the working contract, as well as the previous production schedule, and must reenter into the negotiation stage so you may rework the entire contract to include the given “cool” add-on. Clients become endlessly offended and have the “Why can’t you just add in anti-gravity while you’re at it?” attitude when it’s simply not a possible feature you can include and satisfy the terms of the contract (budget, time, etc.). However, when you have a manager that fails to relay this information to the client you immediately have unrealistic project scope.

Vague business goals (or requirements) has happened with me when the client was given too much opportunity to change their mind about features offered. When contracts are signed for software they stand as the diecast from which all production will come from. If at any point the model (or cast) is changed, the entire contract must be rewritten to establish a new diecast from which software may be generated. In short, I completely agree with the items listed in this article. I have personally experienced setbacks and they did specifically include these three (3) items listed.



  1. Alexander, M. (2017, December 15). Project management guide: Tips, strategies, best practices. Retrieved January 27, 2019, from https://www.cio.com/article/3243005/project-management/project-management-tips-strategies-best-practices.html

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