How to avoid a crashing IT project!

Published 2015-11-12

The project has been delayed numerous times. A number of demonstrations have gone wrong. Multiple vendors are involved and responsible for different system components of the total architecture. Distrust is everywhere and positions between the different parties are entrenched.  Time is running out, and so is the budget – for you as a client of course, but in fact equally importantly for the vendors that have a fixed price project to deliver where the “burn-rate” is very high while the project is making very little progress.

How do you recognise the situation? Well, you’re not alone – typical figures you will find indicate that 20-30% of IT projects end as failures; the larger the project the higher the failure rate. Statistics you don’t want to be part of. So, how can that be avoided?

To act is always better than doing nothing! A good first step is to be brutally honest with yourself and decide if you really think that the suppliers – or some of them – really have the capability and the mindset to turn this around. They have taken big losses and the risk is that going through with the project will incur even higher losses – making the motivation to continue low.

One option here is to quite simply change vendor. This sounds risky and complex – but experience tells us it can successfully be done and that the risk in reality is lower than continuing on the road heading toward disaster.

The first thing to do is of course to select a trustworthy partner to take over the project. A part of that process is to let the preferred partner carry out a solid due diligence of the project to assess what it will take to turn the project around. Doing this, you will have to be aware that IT projects are never as bad as you think - they are almost always in an even WORSE state!

Probability is high that you will find bad technical choices and bad implementation standards in the software that has been delivered so far. To make things worse you have to expect that some of these things will not surface during the due diligence period – they will surface once the project is transitioned and on the way.

Therefore, to take the risk of taking over a project that has crashed the new solution provider must have well-tuned processes in place for:

  • Efficient up scaling of resources
  • Tough decision-making and technical in-depth knowledge to assess when redesigns are necessary
  • Enforcing the delivery culture, that anything is possible – remember that the customer at this point might be disillusioned and needs to see practical evidence of progress.

United Vanning Consulting has solid, successful experience of taking over projects headed for a crash.

In one example the client managed to arrange for United Vanning Consulting to do a one week due diligence of the project, after which we accepted the responsibilities of the largest supplier and prime systems integrator.

The hardest constraint was time: the project had to go live within five months of takeover. In order to be able to meet this timeframe a number of activities and principles were implemented and explicitly accepted by all project stakeholders:

  • Re-establishing the vision and strategy for the project, agreeing on what is absolutely necessary for go-live
  • Defining demonstrations to the customer throughout the project delivery of all delivered functionality - to shorten the feedback loop from the organisation
  • Agreeing on scoping and demarcation principles since documentation was not of good quality and up to date
  • Assessing and settling quality measures and acceptance criteria
  • Revitalising the forums and processes governing change control

The first step was to ramp up our team to nearly 30 consultants in a very short time period using employees and some additional contractors – if possible a good idea could be to contract some key technical resources from the previous vendor, to assure knowledge transfer and provide historical background.

During the project we repeatedly ran into bad implementations and technical choices and we had to carefully select what technical changes were necessary and balance the need with how much time was left until project go-live.

By bringing all parties together around the joint goals and vision for the project, and, with very hard work from everyone involved, we achieved go-live on time!

Contact United Vanning Consulting to learn more about how to turn around problem projects!

For more information about United Vanning or to explore how our expertise can help you please contact us at

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