IT Projects and The Art of Scapegoating
By Sarah Runge
Have you or someone you know ever been the scapegoat for a failed IT project? If so read on. This may give you a déjà vu feeling.
And as the saying goes, “A good scapegoat is nearly as welcome as a solution to the problem”!
This is often a sorry consequence of failed or derailed IT projects. Everyone is responsible for the project and no one is accountable for its outcomes. This issue will become even more apparent as the project progresses. Over a period of 1, 2 or 3 years people will either leave the organization/project or will otherwise forget who was actually accountable for having made the critical investment and planning decisions in the first place. Time has a tendency to blur the facts! So what can project sponsors do when they get that sinking feeling that an IT project is heading into deep waters? Hunt for scapegoats! (shhhhh people don’t readily admit that this is what actually happens). Who wants to be held accountable for a train wreck of that magnitude? Nobody – hence the scapegoating!
Unfortunately, organizations typically identify vendors, project managers and CIO’s as the obvious parties (read scapegoats) responsible for under-delivered and over-budget IT projects.
In actuality, the causes generally lie in the camp of the C-Level, senior executives and presidents themselves. Why? Because strategic decisions to invest in IT systems are always made at the top level of an organization. They should instead be asking themselves where they messed up and analyze whether, why or how their IT investment and project decisions were under-analyzed, under-scoped, under-supported, under-communicated or under-trained. Did they make the critical strategic project decisions and follow through with an execution strategy to establish key project procedures or not? Information cannot be expected to be communicated via osmosis or hearsay.
Ask yourself who was responsible for identifying and collecting project requirements and were they empowered and accountable? Were they the most appropriate people or just the most senior or worse still – self-appointed?
The other key question that vendors and customers should be asking themselves is “did we assume that extensive requirements were collected and correctly documented from the most pertinent and pivotal parties?” Most of the time both parties just assume that the important task of requirements gathering has been diligently carried out (which is where the slippery slope begins and scapegoats are sought out).
Sarah Runge is a business consultant specializing in corporate profiling for IT projects. She has an MBA Honors and is the Director of Corporate Profiling Global at ITPSB Corporation.