Project inferiority complex

Reading about perfect IT implementations may be bad for your health...

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By  Eliot Beer Published  August 27, 2007

Enterprises are like people - infinitely varied, each one unique - and each one imperfect, in some way. And while - like people - some organisations are very successful indeed, many are only moderately so, always in a continual struggle to deal with the market, to deal with change - and occasionally forced to tackle failure.

Unfortunately for these companies, there isn't much tolerance in the market for an inability to deal with failure or change. To read the comments of some IT and business professionals in magazines - ACN included, if we're being honest - most of them eat change for breakfast - complete with a side-order of opportunity - before going on to thwart failure at every turn.

Of course, ACN and its cohorts tend only to hear of the more successful IT and business projects - of the 70%-plus that fail, we hear not a word. The unfortunate side-effect of only hearing about success, though, is a version of the envy young women (and men) feel when reading glossy celebrity magazines.

These publications are encouraging a generation of young people to believe they are not thin, stylish, popular or rich enough. The cult of celebrity has been widely decried - whatever else it is guilty of, it certainly isn't going to help make people happy in themselves.

But business magazines are not immune - sadly for us, the analogy translates almost exactly. Is it possible that, by reading endless success stories of successful projects and implementations, business and IT magazines are breeding a generation of executives with project envy?

The answer - we hope - would be no. Business leaders should be smart enough to read between the lines, to know from their own experience that the world is an imperfect place. However, business is a paranoid environment, with more politics and infighting than most governments or political parties - an ideal breeding ground for self-doubt and worry.

So when IT professionals read about other companies' perfect projects, there is almost certainly some measure of envy or resentment that creeps in. Even when project envy sets in, though, it should still be possible to at least learn from the implementation.

Does this mean, I hear you ask at the back, that ACN will stop writing about high-quality implementations, and only look at projects where everything went wrong? Well, no. But, we will be aiming to cover every project we look at realistically - and get the challenges and the problems along with the triumphs and successes.

At the end of the day, I would guess there isn't a project in the world that has gone 100% according to plan. Modern implementations are simply too complex for everything to go right first time, all the time - why else do organisations do such extensive testing?

In a time when IT sits at the core of every enterprise - large and small - it is more important than ever to be realistic about what technology can achieve, as well as what it can't.

And, moreover, psychological damage to a generation of professionals caused by project inferiority complexes is something we should all be working to prevent...

***

Speaking of change - and challenges - you'll notice a few differences in ACN from September. We're redesigning the magazine, and restructuring it to better reflect the issues regional enterprises face.

I will welcome your comments and suggestions on the new-look ACN - keep an eye out from the start of next month, and write to me with your thoughts - eliot.beer@itp.com

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