Technology projects fail all the time. Everyone knows this. But why do so many of them fail? Why is the learning curve so flat? Here are 10 reasons why projects of all shapes and sizes fail, and why enterprise technology investments fail so spectacularly. As you read the list, ask yourself how many elephants are in the rooms where you spend all those technology dollars each and every year. Haven’t you ever asked yourself if there’s a better way?
The “elephants in the room” analogy is important here. There are so many mistakes made every day, month and year that perhaps everyone’s just grown immune to business as usual: failure’s been normalized. It really has. If I hear another CIO or CTO complain about their consultants, vendors and teams, I’m going to get a bodycam and stream in realtime.
So let’s get into it. Ask yourself how many reasons apply to you, your team and your company – and how many elephants you feed every day.
1. No Strategies, Models or Processes
Without a strategy, a business model and an inventory of business processes, all is lost: if you don’t have – or want to develop – a strategy, a business model or an inventory of “as-is” and “to-be” processes, you should just call it quits. Without a business strategy, a business model and the identification, description and profiling of business processes that can be improved, automated, eliminated or invented with existing and emerging technology, you will fail to leverage technology investments. If you don’t have this database, you’re already in trouble.
2. Forgotten Core Competencies
Here’s the question:
“If you cannot strategize, build business models, identify and profile business processes, track technologies and identify the business-technology matches that will make you more competitive, what’s your actual job?”
Consultants should not tell you how to run your business or list the technologies you should track. You should reclaim core competencies that distinguish between ‘brains’ and ‘brawn,’ where you have the brains and consultants have the brawn. The more you outsource, the more likely you are to fail — especially if you outsource everything strategic.
3. Operational Technology is a Commodity
Operational technology is now a commodity; it’s bottled water you can buy anywhere. There’s no real difference among ERP apps, BI apps and cloud providers – no matter what your vendors and consultants tell you, so stop worrying and focus on strategic technology — the last differentiator.
4. Stop Pestering CIOs & CTOs to Be “Strategic”
CIOs and CTOs should stay in the operational trenches: they’re not strategists, so we should stop expecting them to do something they can’t – or don’t want to – do. If you want real strategic technology leverage, find people who live and breathe it free from the distractions of operational technology. These are not jobs easily combined.
5. Emerging Technologies
There’s a ton of emerging technologies you need to understand at the functional level. If you don’t track and define these technologies, you will fail. There are 3 questions about each technology you must answer: what it is/why you should care/what you should do about it. Examples? Reduce the number of programmers on your team and replace them with low-code jockeys; slow-roll Quantum; stop taking The Metaverse seriously; and stop doing multi-cloud.
6. Digital Transformation Isn’t Transformative
Stop over-selling digital transformation. Companies define everything as ‘transformation.’ Disruptive transformation – where processes and business models are fundamentally changed – is rare. Stop chasing it and stop selling it. Besides, if you don’t have deep process inventories, you have no transformation chance anyway.
7. AI & Machine Learning are For Real
AI and machine learning are game changers. You better understand them. If you don’t, you will fail. Way too many companies have too little respect for what AI and machine learning can do. Don’t be one of them.
8. Technology Policy’s for Sale
Ignore technology policy at your own risk — remember it’s for sale to the highest paid lobbyist. Decide if you want to directly influence policy or react to policies influenced by others – and invest accordingly. Sitting on the sidelines is unacceptable.
9. Flat Organizational Structures Fail Remote Management
Flat organizations are horrible for managing distributed organizations (managed remotely). Focus on hierarchies, accountability, work-products and no-emotion leadership. Stop trying to please everyone with flat structures especially when you can’t even see them.
10.Failure is Human
You also fail because you don’t have the right talent performing the right tasks at the right time for the right money. All new recruiting and retention strategies are necessary. It’s time to plan an off-site with your HR team about how to fill the competency gaps all over your company – because they’re there.
There are more than 10 reasons why enterprise technology fails. You can probably list at least 10 more. So why do they never seem to go away? Why are we so accepting of, for example, missing strategies, models and processes? Why do we stress over commoditized operational technology and so little about strategic differentiation enabled by emerging technology? Why don’t we deal with the talent crisis upstairs, downstairs and next door? (Is that why there are so many consultants?)
Is it time to look in the mirror? No – skip that step. We’ve already tried it. The argument that might compel changes is purely financial. Do you how much money you could save, and how much revenue you could generate, if you just stopped the bleeding?