Why do Projects Fail? Lessons from History


Adam Alami

Sydney, Australia

There is no consensus about how project failure and success should be defined. It’s either subjectively defined or left to assumptions and interpretations. There have been various failed projects in the IT industry that began memorably and as game-changers in the industry but instead failed to achieve all their objectives, resulting in significant losses by the respective companies.

Very little research has attempted an in-depth investigation of failed projects to identify exactly what the factors are behind the failure. In this article, we analyse six high-profile projects’ failures. The data was gathered from various public sources. Our analysis indicates that the reasons for the failure of some of these projects may have included the following:

  1. Over-ambitious requirements
  2. Unrealistic functionalities
  3. End users’ resentment to change
  4. Uncertainties in the project ecosystem
  5. Managing unknowns

Below are descriptions of the selected projects used in this research:

1.    IBM’s 7030 Stretch project 1956

In 1956 IBM set out on an overzealous project for what would be the fastest computer in the world, and in 1960, after almost $50M spent, the Stretch 7030 was developed, a machine capable of handling half a million instructions per second and anticipated to be 200 times faster than its predecessors. However, this project was a failure as the machine was expensive at $13.5M and came short of its anticipated power as it was only 30 to 40 times faster. Due to these shortcomings, the anticipated demand for the machine dropped, and this eventually led to the slashing of its price by nearly half, to $7.8M, which was less than the cost of production. This led to losses by the company and eventually the halting of production of the machines. This overambitious project was an embarrassment to the company’s reputation.


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About the Author


Adam Alami

Sydney, Australia




Adam Alami is a seasoned IT consultant with over 18 years’ experience. Business Analysis and Project Management is his passion. His experience revolved around major business transformation projects. He is a versetail IT professional. He accumulated a wealth of cross industry experience with Tier 1 businesses in major projects in the areas of Enterprise Transformation, Integration, Migration, and Systems Modernization.

He has a track of academic achievements. He holds a Bachelor degree in Software Engineering from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) and a Master degree in Computing from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

Adam has a passion for research. His research interests are IT Offshoring, Global Project Managements, Banking Technology, Business Analysis, Information Technology and Culture, Enterprise Innovation and Business Solutions.

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.adamalami.com/