Metrics for IT success

What percentage of IT projects fail? At our recent SOA Executive Forum in New York, an attendee asked a group of panelists to estimate their success rate on projects; specifically, he wanted to know how many of their IT initiatives had "failed on any level."

Ed Vazquez, manager of SOA implementations at Sprint Nextel, and a real live wire, planted his tongue partway in his cheek and came up with a startling figure -- 100 percent. His point: Every project fails somewhere, either organizationally, in reporting, in creating the right architecture, or elsewhere.

In other words, IT success depends on how you define it and on the metrics you establish, as Contributing Editor Dan Tynan spells out in "Use metrics to prove your IT project's worth." "Everyone has a different idea of success," Tynan says, "and no one really talks about it."

Knowing this, IT pros can help their cause by locking down metrics early and getting buy-in up the line. Tynan found several examples of this approach, most strikingly at Hewlett-Packard, where every IT function is treated as a project that gets measured. According to Don Kingsberry, director of HP's global program management office, that philosophy allows HP to quantify the value of its infrastructure, so the company can justify everything it does within IT.

Without those sorts of agreements, "you're subject to the whim and caprice of the people around you," Tynan notes. "Every project becomes political, and your history with the folks in the organization plays into their perceptions."

Want more evidence of this unfortunate truth? Check out Off the Record's tale of a business process analyst whose end-users lost faith in IT. The adversarial relationship meant they were unlikely to rate any project a success, no matter what IT delivered.