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Why Do IT Projects Slip?
Why Do IT Projects Slip?

Why Do IT Projects Slip?

This afternoon I came across a LinkedIn comment which lead me to read through an article discussing, “What are the basic principles of IT project management?” (formerly available at  I think the article is really just a piece of linkbait.

The person posting the article added the comment, “Projects progress rapidly until they become 90 percent complete; they then remain 90 percent complete forever.”  The comment is more interesting than the article.

I have seen this phenomenon, lived through it, and come to realize it frequently suggests leadership and accountability failure.

There are many components to effective IT PM. Chief among them, are transparency and accountability.

IT projects often fail when it comes to accountability. A lot of this is tied intangibility. It takes no effort to push a mass-less object, like ‘dates,’ down the road.  In a machine shop, there may be a 2500 lb block of steel—physically in the way—emphasizing, “I’m not getting done.”  When manufacturing a machine, someone owns each discrete part, each step of the way.

Like passing a baton in a race, it is very clear where things are at.

This is where transparency, also known as ‘communication,’ comes to bear.  All too often communication—about the things that matter—is insufficient. We become blind to dozens, hundreds, of email in our inbox.  Regardless, effective communication, identifying exactly where parts of an IT project are, who owns them, and when their deliverables will be made, are crucial to maintaining accountability.  And doing so requires a strong project manager, a strong Leader.

One of the reasons people don’t know a project is complete: No one told them.

Years ago, after a project had wrapped up, I sent out an email summarizing everything and stating it was formally complete.  I was surprised to receive an email from a VP thanking me for doing so, “…so few people actually do this…”

(photo credit: loserlady)


  1. David

    The reasons are endless. I think one contributing reason is that IT folks are dismissive of the pains of end-users. Unfortunately, end-users are seeing an incredible amount of progress via the web & mobile apps, which raises their expectations.

    1. JT

      Hello David,

      I agree. The days of IT organizations practicing, “…knowledge is power, and we’re not sharing…” and refusing to leave their pedestals, still exist in pockets. Fortunately the pockets are diminishing.
      ‘IT’ is an enabler and needs to be a partner at the table with the rest of the organization. Increasingly, having ‘IT’ in house for “IT’s” sake is no longer a given. Not when you can outsource many of it’s functions, right down to backing up users’ hard drives.

      Good comment,

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