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Self-defeating choices in IT project management

August 15, 2008 0 Comments

I have a new Baseline column up on the tendency of large organizations to reject the best solutions for a troubled IT project:

The consultants, usually with the help of the employees in the trenches, would use their time, effort, and expertise to analyze the system under development or in production. They would arrive at a clear, supportable, essential solution – technical, architectural, methodological, organizational, whatever. This would be presented to upper management…whereupon upper (or project) management would say, “No, we can’t do that.”

Sometimes, they would give no specific reason why the solution was not acceptable. Sometimes, they made it clear that it wasn’t the solution they wanted or that they felt was acceptable. If they did explain their rejection, it was usually in budgetary or political terms.

The investigating team would often then go back and look for an alternate (and less optimal) solution. If one was found, often that was rejected as well, and so on, often down to the least desirable solution. Barry [Glasco] said that he and another colleague, Chuck McCorvey, had gone through this so many times with one client that they joked about simply presenting the worst solution first, since it seemed to be typically the only solution the client would accept.

Go read the whole thing; comments are welcome here or there.  ..bruce..

About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at

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