Why IT Software Projects Fail: The procurement process selects the worst solution

dilbert“The tender process selects the most unrealistic estimates and often from the worst companies.”

Well worth fifteen minutes of your time.

University of Auckland Computer Science Lecturer, Paul Ralph, says when it comes to the public procurement of big software design projects – don’t! He says the total cost of larger IT projects always cost more than everyone thinks, they’re almost impossible to accurately forecast in advance, and innovation is constantly undermined by the tender process. Paul Ralph’s recent research in this area includes papers on, ‘Requirements Fixation’, ‘Is Requirement Engineering Inherently Counter productive?’ and ‘ The Illusion of Requirements in Software Development’.

Why do big IT Projects Fail?


  1. Not saying that there was not merit in the issues he identified – anyone who has been involved in an RFP would agree – but he did not have a viable alternate approach.

  2. The sad thing is that reasonably accurate estimation of large software development initiatives is often possible, whereas the reality is that accuracy inevitably comes second to acceptability.

    Also, I have never understood why in the typical procurement process, would-be supplier estimates aren’t routinely challenged. For example, questioning the basis on which a supplier bidding $1M say, is able to deliver on requirements for which everybody else is quoting above $2M (maybe they haven’t understood the requirements very well, or missed some of the complexities …). If a supplier has got it wrong, even with a big contract to beat them over the head with, everybody loses in the end.

    Love the Dilbert!

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