the doctor Declares Open Season on Barney!

We all know about Barney – the “love“-filled purple dinosaur that could convince even the most gentle of pacifists to pick up a sawed-off and let loose a few rounds of buckshot. What we may not know is just how far the “barney deal” and the “barney presentation” has infiltrated our profession. How many conferences have you been to lately where the presenter talked about how the software implementation was a complete failure? That’s what I thought.

Over 70% of IT-related projects are at least partial, if not complete failures. So why aren’t conferences filled with presentations on “This is how we failed. This is why. And this is what we should have done.” Well, we know the answer. It’s because your average decision maker is too timid – or maybe that’s too stupid – to own up. Especially after millions of dollars have been spent. And even if he did, no conference organizer would want to headline a conference with a speaker from an organization that failed.

Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. And the reality is that most of us learn more from mistakes than from successes. And a mistake not communicated is one that is doomed to be repeated again and again and again. The reality is that no system works the first time – that’s why we have design cycles, release cycles, and quality assurance. The point is to learn from the failure and do it right the next time. Instead what we often get, as Alan Buxton pointed out, is:

  1. The decision is made to buy a tool that does X.
  2. An RFP, complete with a requirements list, is sent to a vendor.
  3. The vendor promises that the software can do everything and more.
  4. A consulting partner, and implementation specialist, who backs up the vendor, is found.
  5. Implementation Begins.
  6. Everyone realizes that the requirements in step 2 weren’t enough.
    Then they realize the software couldn’t even do what was promised in step 2.
  7. More money is spent for more modules and “customization”.
  8. The requirements are weakened.
  9. A “live” system is eventually declared.
  10. The system is benchmarked against original objectives. It performs miserably.
  11. The objectives are revised. The system now performs almost acceptably.
  12. Joint press releases are issued declaring the project a grand success!
  13. Everyone returns to step 1.

And it’s ridiculous. As a result there are dozens, if not hundreds, of vendors selling systems for hundreds of thousands, millions, and sometimes tens of millions of dollars everyday that do not meet their customer’s needs and buying organizations making the same mistakes again and again because no one is documenting previous failures and insuring the lessons learned are there for the next generation. But it stops now!

If you were involved with a project that was a partial or complete failure, you know why, and you want to tell the world about it (anonymously) – this will be your forum. I’ll be glad to publish your story so that others can learn from the mistakes of the past – and so that you can learn from the mistakes of others. There’s no crime in making a mistake if you didn’t know better. The point is to not make the same mistake twice.