The Standish Group has been publishing an annual report on the health of IT project delivery since 1994. It’s a big study that encompasses thousands of projects around the world with a representative sample from every major industry sector, including Retail.

The first report in 1994, appropriately named Chaos, revealed that only 16% of IT projects were successfully completed, and a whopping 84% were deemed to be unsuccessful. Their definition of success was on time, on budget and on spec.

Of the unsuccessful projects, 53% were classified as challenged, delivering less features and functions than specified with both time and cost overruns, and 31% were absolute failures because they were cancelled prior to completion or delivered and never used.

Standish Group Chaos Reports -Traditional Resoluion

Furthermore, the unsuccessful projects took 222% longer than planned to complete, cost 189% more than budgeted, and delivered only 61% of the features and functions specified.

To state that poor IT project quality was a problem of epidemic proportion was an understatement.

Fast-forward by 10 years to 2004 and the results were showing slight improvements, with 29% successful projects and only 18% absolute failures. By 2012 the success rate had increased to 39% with failed projects remaining at 18%.

Unsuccessful projects between 2004 and 2012 on average took 76% longer to complete, cost 52% more than budgeted and delivered 68% of features and functions specified. [You can learn more about the historical trends for time, cost and feature delivery in our white paper, “How to Make Your Next Retail IT Project a Success”.]

So, just when things are starting to look a little better, The Standish Group decided to throw a monkey wrench into the works. For their 2015 Chaos report, they released what they are calling the “Modern Resolution”, which defines project success as on time, on budget and … here’s the monkey wrench … with a satisfactory result.

Apparently, over the years, they had witnessed several examples of projects that delivered on time, on budget and on spec, but contributed little or no value to the organization or the users, and left the executive sponsor unsatisfied.

This change in the definition of success has effectively whacked us back to the past. Success rates for 2015 are now what they were back in 2004 under the “Traditional Resolution”, as shown by the following chart.

Standish Group Chaos Reports - Modern Resolution

Whether you agree with the new definition of success or not is really a moot point. That’s because we’d just be debating over degrees of mediocrity.

The bottom line is that the IT industry as a whole, and Retail as a segment, still has a problem of epidemic proportion with respect to IT project quality.

Our observations, working as implementation specialists for retail commerce, are that these mediocre results for the entire IT industry are an accurate reflection of reality for both large and mid-size North American retailers.

Almost every retailer has a story to tell about IT projects that didn’t go as planned, and some have epic failures they would rather not talk about.

Between 2000 and 2014, even we were experiencing our share of “unsuccessful projects” with time and cost overruns.

Midway through 2014, we decided enough was enough – we had to do something to foster greater project success. We developed a 3-step solution, which we pilot-tested with a handful of clients.

Each project using this 3-step solution was delivered on time, on spec and on budget. To learn more, we invite you to download our white paper, “How To Make Your Next Retail IT Project a Success”.

Download our White Paper about fostering IT Project success