Technology project failure or success statistics vary a great deal, because there's no standard measure of project success. I suggest a new measure of project success or failure: the promise.

Many times a project promises too much. If a new computer program promises to lower cost by reducing the number of staff required to accomplish a task, then cost savings should only be the promise when there's a solid plan to reduce staff. In most cases it's more realistic to realize the promise is really the reassignment of duties or a higher devotion to customer service.

Even when properly evaluated and assigned in project planning, too often the promise of the project is lost immediately after the sales pitch, or in the myriad of compromises made during project development. Traditional Project Management tells us a project is successful when it delivers on time, budget, and scope. These are short-hand for the larger realization that projects that fail to meet a window of opportunity won't be successful, but the shorthand often leads to poor decisions which compromise the promise of the project.

After the system's rolled-out we measure what we control; generally things like the up-time of the system rather than the promised cost savings, number of staff re-assigned, or customer satisfaction.

The true measure of a project's success is the promise of the project. It's time we break down the silos that encourage exaggerated project justifications. It's time we put promise first when evaluating alternatives and making compromises during project implementation. And it's time we use true measures of project success or project failure.


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