Disconnect Failure

The following entry is part of the Pattern Library. The Pattern Library records the common patterns of behaviours and events that have the potential to lead to project failure.

Pattern name : Disconnect Failure

In brief :
Project loses sight of its overall business objectives and ends up implementing a system that fails to meet the originally intended business objectives.

Description :
Disconnect failures occur when the project’s intended business benefits fail to materialize because the project team were never clear on, or, lost sight of what it was they were trying to achieve.  Disconnect failures occur in a number of ways and for a variety of reasons.  Examples include;

  1. The business objectives existed within the mind of the Project Sponsor but were never formally documented or communicated, as a result the project team lacked the reference point against which to align their efforts
  2. The business objectives were defined, but once documented they were filed away and never used as a reference point when making critical project decisions
  3. Project stakeholders have different objectives than that defined by the Project Sponsor and because of a lack of governance, stakeholders divert (either internationally or unintentionally) the project in a different direction

Because many organizations fail to track the business benefits of their technology investments, disconnect failures are far more common than many organizations realise.  The following study by the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that a third of business process change projects fail to deliver their intended benefits.  This figure is likely a typical for many organizations.

Typical sequence of events :

  1. Business objectives are either never defined or expressed in vague terms
  2. Lack of management oversight
  3. Finishing the deliverables on time becomes the project’s focus rather than focusing on ensuring the originally planned business benefits are realized

Negative effects :

  1. Failure to realise intended business benefits
  2. Lost opportunity cost

Related patterns

  1. Transitional failure
  2. Alignment failure
  3. Schedule pressure failure (when under schedule pressure teams often focus on deliverables and schedule more than they do on business benefits)

Suggested Actions :

  1. Ensure appropriate oversight activities are included in the project and that the Project Sponsor is an active part of the project
  2. Define objectives in clear and measurable ways
  3. Include periodic “alignment” reviews to ensure the project is moving towards its intended goals