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Monday, November 10, 2008

Project Failure

Project Failures are everywhere.  Below is a list of project failures taken from an article that appears on the Lessons-from-History website.  You can read the full article here.

Why are there so many project failures?  My therory is it they are many times a result of a combination of several things:

Weak project management

Poor or non-existent project sponsorship

An organizational culture that severely disfunctional

Incomplete and/or inaccurate requirements

Some Notable Project Failures (from

The following list of failures happened within the project itself supporting the Standish claim that close to 50% of projects are seriously challenged:

  • The IRS project on taxpayer compliance took over a decade to complete and cost the country an unanticipated $50 bn.
  • The Oregon DMV conversion to new software took eight years to complete, the budget grew by 146% ($123m) and public outcry eventually killed the entire project.
  • The State of Florida welfare system was plagued with numerous computational errors and $260m in overpayments!
  • August 2008 Unencrypted memory stick lost with names/dates of birth of 84,000 inmates, England 's entire prison population. Home addresses of 33,000 who had six convictions.
  • Feb. 2007 £20bn UK NHS computer system 'doomed to fail‘a senior insider has warned.
  • 2007 laptop with records of 600,000 recruits was stolen from Royal Navy recruiter's car
  • In September 2006 Department of Homeland Security admitted project failure and closed the Emerge2 program $229m (a new financial IT system).
  • In May 2006 the disastrous Seasprite helicopter program for the Australian Navy, with $1bn spent, the helicopters were grounded due to software problems.
  • In April 2005 inter-departmental warfare played a significant role in the failure of a $64m federal IT project.
  • In 2005 British food retailer J Sainsbury had to write off $526m it had invested in an automated supply-chain management system.
  • In 2005 US Justice Department Inspector General report stated $170m FBI Virtual Case File project was a failure, after five years and $104m in expenditures. Over one 18-month period, the FBI gave its contractor nearly 400 requirements changes. 
  • In 2005 the UK Inland Revenue produced tax payment overpayments of $3.45 bn because of software errors. 
  • May 2005 major hybrid car manufacturer installed software fix on 160,000 vehicles. The automobile industry spends $2 to $3 bn per year fixing software problems.
  • July 2004 a new government welfare management system in Canada costing $200m was unable to handle a simple benefits rate increase. The contract allowed for 6 weeks of acceptance testing and never tested the ability to handle a rate increase.
  • In 2004 Avis cancelled an ERP system after $54.5m is spent
  • In 2002 the UK government wasted £698m on Pathway project, smartcards for benefits payments, & £134m overspend on magistrates' courts Libra system.


Anonymous said...

I think a very important addition to the list is poor communication. Project management is about working together! Great post! I also have a blog on project management. Check it out if you get a chance - Online Project Management Blog

Anonymous said...

In many cases the project can come to a sad end because the goal and idea of the project were not right. Also the project management. A good tool can give some help on that. Look at

Project Management said...

one of the main reasons for failure is because there is a lack of consideration for the magnitude and complexities of project management and consequently, there is a natural inclination to attack it piece meal.