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Why Large Technical Projects Fail and How Yours Can Succeed


Joe Teplitz, Principal Consulting Analyst


When assessing enterprise risk, it is important to look beyond breaches and loss of IP. In this report, we will consider the risks and risk mitigation strategies associated with the pervasive failures in an alarming percentage of major technical initiatives in large enterprises. This is increasingly important as organizations embark upon digital transformation initiatives and integrate IT functions within business units.

We will start by considering why so many large technical programs fail and assess the consequences of these failures. At best, failure means no economic return; at worst, it means significant impact to reputational, customer, operational, and business risk. Often, the failure is so bad that the best risk mitigation technique is writing off the entire project. In financial services organizations, major programs often include a large IT component. Unfortunately, IT doesn’t always have sufficient discipline in developing and stating accurate value, payback metrics or specific success/failure measurements for its programs.

Lack of discipline injects significant risk into the overall program, even when the program management function is independent of IT. This report investigates IT’s contribution to program risk and identifies the key risk factors organizations must address for program success. For each risk factor, the report identifies the risk type, its impact on overall risk, mitigation steps and best practices to reduce the risk, as well as key metrics for measuring this risk reduction.

This report covers:

  • The fundamentals of large program failure
  • Establishing accurate value or payback mechanisms for programs
  • Instilling discipline into the process to reduce risk
  • Key success factors and metrics to achieve large program success


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