Techcentric Myopia

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

Name : Techcentric Myopia
Scope : Macro pattern (sets pattern of events for complete project)
Outline :
Technology solutions are built to serve a purpose for their users.  Some projects loose sight of that goal and allow the technology itself to become the central purpose.  Such projects place significant focus on the technology aspects of the project while paying lesser attention to the business, user, cultural and organizational issues that are a part of any significant project.  Although such projects often make rapid initial progress (because they bypass many difficult to answer user and business questions), the effect of the missing activities ultimately catches up with the project.  Often the result is a catastrophic failure or a system that no one ever really uses.

Typical sequence of events :

  1. Failure to engage stakeholders
  2. Failure to analyse target user community needs or their operating environment
  3. Team is staffed and managed by technically oriented staff
  4. Rapid initial progress as team focuses on technological aspects of the project while ignoring business, users and cultural issues
  5. Late breaking changes as stakeholders slowly become more aware of what is happening
  6. Significant rework as a result of errors in the strategic decisions made early in the project
  7. If system goes “live” there can be catastrophic impacts for users or customers, or in some cases the system is simply never used.

Negative effects :

  1. Late breaking changes as stakeholders get involved late and find their needs are not being addressed
  2. Building a solution that is poorly matched to the business or market needs
  3. Potential for user community to “reject” a solution they feel the IT group has imposed on them
  4. Operational chaos due to insufficient thought to deployment, procedural and staff training issues

Common Root Causes :

  1. Gravitation (the tendency for people to work on the things they like or understand) by a technical oriented team
  2. Schedule pressure and an underestimation of complexity of the large scale project
  3. An unwillingness to face up to culture change issues within the organization
  4. A belief that technology can solve all organizational problems

Suggested Actions :

  1. Ensure all stakeholders are engaged at the start of the project
  2. Ensure sponsorship of the project from within the user community
  3. Ensure project has appropriate technical, business and organization leadership in place

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