IT exists to serve what the business needs to do—not the other way around.

Business is about execution. Whether you build a product or deliver a service, business is about moving a ‘ball’ from Points A to B as fast and efficiently as you can to generate profit. That may sound like a linear exercise—it’s not. Execution is a cycle with four phases. Someone does the actual work. Someone manages that work. You measure how things went to assess performance. Then, based on the results, you refine your efforts to do better next time. You run this cycle because business is also about competition—and you understand that if you don’t constantly improve your execution, you’re not going to stay in business.

Software is a tool that can automate that cycle, track its performance and improve your ability to execute. And there are lots of vendors, with lots of tools, that will promise to help you do that. But you’ll never know whether you’re getting the right tool for the job you need to do, unless you first understand exactly what that job is—and that’s where IT projects and departments often go sideways. We lead with technology before we fully understand the business problem. We get the cart before the horse.

And then we wonder why three out of four executives don’t think their IT departments are effective, and three out of four end users don’t think that IT does anything to help them do their jobs. If we’re supposed to be the change agents, we probably need to start making some changes.

Our mission is to help you do that. And to the extent that we can, we’ll do it for free because we want to reach as many of our fellow professionals as possible. We invite you to join us.

It’s time we confront some harsh realities.

The biggest experts in the IT industry are unanimous in this assessment—70% of enterprise IT projects fail. The good news is that 70% isn’t as bad as it sounds. Not all failures are created equal. 50% just experience some “significant” level of failure—meaning they’re way (30 – 300%) over budget, behind schedule or under-deliver. Only 20%, one in five, are total failures, complete write-offs.

The bad news is that if a project costs over a million dollars, the odds of a failure jump by 50%. That means the odds of total failure for a big project are one in three. The odds of a significant failure are almost two out of three. The odds of success—only one in 20. To put this in perspective, playing Russian Roulette with five out of six bullets in the gun has better odds of success than running a large IT project—not a very comforting reality.

The question we—our profession, our industry—need to deal with is, “WHY is this happening?” Our mission is to help you answer that question. And to the extent that we can, we’ll do it for free because we want to reach as many of our fellow professionals as possible. We invite you to join us.

Half a Trillion here. Half a Trillion there. Pretty soon it’s real money.

According to ZDNet and the industry analysts who study such matters, the hard dollar costs of IT project failures in the US runs about $500 Billon a year. That number is comprised of $100 Billion in annual write-offs plus $400 Billion in rework on systems that limped into production but never did what they were supposed to—so they have to be continually patched.

The IEEE’s Spectrum magazine says that “…software specialists spend about 40 to 50 percent of their time on avoidable rework…. Once a piece of software makes it into the field, the cost of fixing an error can be 100 times as high as it would have been during the development stage.” We tend to forget that a botched IT project is a thief that keeps on stealing. And all in, that thief steals over 2% of the average company’s annual revenues—money that would have gone straight to the bottom line.

Wasting money in a good economy is painful. Wasting money in a bad economy is lethal. We’re in the longest economic expansion in US history, but one day it’s going to end. And when it does, this kind of waste won’t be tolerated. If for no other reason than self-preservation, shouldn’t we get out in front of this problem now?

You can guarantee your competition is!

Our mission is to help you do it too. And to the extent that we can, we’ll do it for free because we want to reach as many of our fellow professionals as possible. We invite you to join us.

70% of IT projects fail because of silence. We fail to address what goes unsaid.

Three out of four IT project failures are a direct result of poor communication between the business and tech teams. We talk, but we don’t talk about the right things in enough detail. And as a result, project teams don’t know what needs to be done, why it needs to happen and who needs to do it. Gallup has found that this problem extends far beyond IT, stating that “…half of all US employees don’t know what’s expected of them…(they) don’t know what their boss wants.” There’s a critical point to note about this—people can’t reach a goal—they can’t even develop a plan or opportunistically capitalize on alternatives to reach that goal—if they don’t fully understand what the goal is!

If 19 out of 20 large IT projects fail—and 14 of those 19 failures are directly attributable to poor communication—then somehow we’re dropping the ball—on a massive scale—when it comes to sharing the basic information that’s essential for successful execution. For too long we’ve acted as if what our customers (both internal and external) don’t tell us, is not our problem. Well, they don’t see it that way. It not only becomes our problem, they stop trusting us. We’re supposed to be the experts. We’re supposed to know what needs to be done. We need to start acting like it. We have a fiduciary responsibility to act like it!

The good news is, we recognize that we’ve got this problem. The bad news is, the real problem isn’t what we think it is and we’ve been looking in the wrong places to fix it.

Our mission is to help you focus in the right places. And to the extent that we can, we’ll do it for free because we want to reach as many of our fellow professionals as possible. We invite you to join us.

Economists are wrong. People are not rational actors and everybody’s minds-eye is different.

For decades business schools have taught us that human beings make logical decisions based on the best available information. We’ve been told that we’re in control of our thoughts and actions, know what we’re doing, and that facts are facts and there’s only one way to see them. Accepting this premise as true, we’ve assumed negligence and punished people when the details they needed to address during an IT project were missed. There’s just one problem with this approach—it’s all wrong!

Brain science has come a long way in the last 20 years. We’ve recently discovered that humans are controlled by an ‘auto-pilot’ that we never knew we had. It’s called the ‘adaptive unconscious.’ It leaps to conclusions based on little information; ignores some facts and invents others; it’s easily, unwittingly manipulated; it’s the antithesis of rational, and it creates a world-view that’s unique for each of us. We thought we were in control of our brains. It’s the other way around!

We miss vital project details and forget to share others because we’re literally hard-wired to act that way. That’s a big obstacle when the success of our IT projects demands accurate and complete information. So, knowing what we now know, we’ve got two options. Either we continue to get mad at people for being human (which does nothing to solve the problem and only makes it worse), or we accept the fact that human limitations are what they are and figure out a way to overcome this obstacle

A few of us have chosen the latter and we’ve found a remarkably simple way to do it—it’s called a checklist.

Our mission is to share it, and we’ll do it for free so we can reach as many of our fellow professionals as possible. We invite you to join us.

6: Do you really think that building enterprise software is easier than building a house?
No, then we should probably stop acting that way.

Anyone who has ever built or remodeled a house has been stunned by the number of details that had to be addressed along the way. The first thing you learn with contractors is that if you don’t tell them what you want or need, they’re not going to know—other people can’t read your mind. The second thing you learn is that the learning curve for navigating the construction process is pretty steep. The uninitiated make a lot of mistakes that veterans have learned to avoid. It may look easy, but it’s anything but—there’s more to it that swinging a hammer.

The exact same lessons hold for developing and implementing IT systems—there’s more to it than writing code. When you’ve been designing, building, selling, implementing, deploying and operating enterprise software for well over 100 years—like our team has—you pick up a few things along the way.

It’s time for us to share that knowledge. It’s time for our industry to become better change agents and more effective technologists. Our mission is to help that happen. And to the extent that we can we’re committed to doing it for free. We want to reach as many of our fellow professionals as possible. We hope you’ll join us.