IMD International


Designed to Fail:  Why IT-enabled business projects underacheive and what to do about them

  Designed to Fail
Topic Information Technology
Date April 21-22 2009

Over the last decade, we have studied hundreds of successful and unsuccessful large scale enterprise-wide IT projects, in areas such as Customer Relationship management (CRM), business intelligence (BI), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and supply chain management. Our research has led us to one simple conclusion: most IT-enabled business projects are “designed to fail”! From the very outset, despite all the money and effort, these projects were never going to deliver the successful outcomes that were promised in the business cases. And in an effort to achieve this elusive success, many organizations often continue to pour additional resources and time at the project long after it should have been abandoned in the hope that somehow they would get it right.

By comparing successful and less successful projects, we have found fundamental differences in how these projects are set up and implemented. From our research, we have discerned two contrasting paradigms that guide the execution of IT projects. The first, which dominates practice and underpins contemporary implementation methodologies today, is the Design-to-Build (D2B) paradigm. The emphasis of IT projects run under this paradigm is to build and deploy the technology and achieve a successful “Go Live”! The alternative is the Design-for-Use (D4U) paradigm, where the focus of the project is on the effective use of information and IT by managers and people in the organization and in decision making processes. This latter paradigm has some profound implications for how we run IT projects and ensure that they are “designed to succeed.”


• Why “Go Live” should be the beginning, not the end of an IT project in a business.
• Why business managers and CIOs (Chief Information Officers) persist in running projects under the Design-to-Build paradigm despite clear evidence that business expectations will not be met.
• How the approaches that follow the Design-for-Use paradigm work, when managers are guided by the organizational and people change management principles underlying these perspectives.
• The diagnostics, measures and methods embedded in the Design-for-Use approach to creating value with IT-enabled business change projects.
• What it takes to design an IT-enabled business change project to succeed.


Designed to Fail, Lausanne, Switzerland, April 21-22,2009

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