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US' Healthcare.gov may be a 'black swan'

Patrick Thibodeau | Oct. 28, 2013
One in six IT projects face out of control costs, and bring much disruption, making them 'black swans'

An IT project with a cost overrun of 150% or more is in the black swan category. Such projects seriously disrupt businesses and costs some workers their careers, he said.

"You can't really forecast which [IT projects] are going to blow up," said Budzier, though in hindsight reasons like too tight deadlines may become clear. A tell-tale clue of problems ahead is a categorization of a project as "unique," he said.

"If your system integrator, if your in-house IT, if everybody tells you that this project is unique, that's a clear sign that this is going to go massively wrong," said Budzier.

His research was detailed in a Harvard Business Review report.

"Projects are and remain risky," said Budzier.

Analyst have different methodologies and approaches for categorizing successful and failed IT projects, but all agree generally that IT projects have a high chance of failure.

In a report last year, Gartner found that 28% of IT projects with budget exceeding $1 million fail.

The Standish Group, when considering projects of $10 million or more, said that 52% were challenged, meaning they faced budget, schedule or user expectation issues, 41% were failures, and 6.4% were successful.

Custom development software firm Geneca did a survey of 600 business and IT executives and found that 75% of respondents said their projects "are either always or usually doomed right from the start." As the survey drilled on, though, most were eventually pleased with a development project outcome, with 21% terming a project as only "somewhat successful."

At the Capitol Hill hearing, the contractors said Healthcare.gov was improving daily, but that was about all they would say about the outlook.

"I represent Silicon Valley and find this very hard follow," said Rep. Eshoo, after hearing explanations from the contractors. She was trying, unsuccessfully, to get details about the specific external and internal testing practices.

"Amazon and eBay don't crash the week before Christmas," said Eshoo.

 

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