Public sector project failure insights

A 2003 UK Government report on Project Failure causes: Public sector project failure insights

Difficulties with IT delivery occur in both the public and private sectors.

However, the public sector has specific issues to address, including long procurement timescales, high publicity, the need for accountability and the political environment.

• There are some factors which can lead to particular problems with IT, such as rapidly changing technology, difficulties in defining requirements and high complexity.

• IT projects are meant to be linked to departments’ overall objectives and deliver benefits for the department, such as service improvements or efficiency gains.

• Much government IT is now delivered by external suppliers, so government needs to be an intelligent client. Departments require a range of skills to scrutinise bids, keep up to date with technology, be realistic about what systems are likely to deliver, understand commercial drivers and actively manage suppliers.

• Breaking projects down into smaller parts increases the chances of success and makes contingency planning easier, but requires considerable time and effort.

• It is important to include the final users in project development and provide time and resources for training.

• The government has introduced a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the success rate of IT projects. However, it is too soon to say how effective these will be and it remains difficult to ensure guidance is followed by all departments and lessons learned from previous project failures.