IS project literature review

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                In earlier period, reserved amount of time has been spent in investigate and adding to the literature of IS project failure in developing countries. "There is a critical shortage of empirical studies on IS problems" (Lyytinen, 1987, p.36). Where as, more informative literature associated to IS projects has been added since last decade but still there is deficiency on side of government IS project failures in developing economies. Significant reason for some amount of raise in literature on IS project failure in developing world is mostly due to rising number of failure projects. According to Heeks in one of his article published in year 2002, there was a severe lack of information systems literature in general until year 2000 creating a huge gap of missing knowledge in IS field. In addition, Yeo also suggested towards the same gap in his article as "The gap between theory and practice in IS studies, particular failure studies, remains" (Yeo, 2002, pp.246). As more literature has been introduced since Year 2000 and onwards expanding more information about IS failure in developing countries, originating new prospect for forthcoming researchers to get suitable direction for their future work. The overall research and literature correlated to ICT in developing countries is also benefited in broader phenomena because of more learning in the field of IS projects failure in developing economies."The increasing visibility and importance of ICTs in developing countries is mirrored to some extent by a growth in the information systems (IS) research literature addressing the area" (Walsham & Sahay,2006, pp.7). However IS projects mainly divided into sub-projects (sub-fields) even though the sub project may be referred to IS projects for example : (based on the process ) a phase of a IS project, (based on skills), plumbing or wiring in building a house, (based on technologies) automated testing of a software product. The most common reason for project failure was poor project planning in two distinct areas. First, risks were not addressed as part of the project planning process. Respondents ranked various risks as being particularly significant, with slippage from the schedule. Some comments from respondents (see figure 1 and 2) :

  1. The original time line was unrealistic, and not revised once completion of enhancements was identified.

  2. I attribute the failure of this project primarily to the management of the scope of the
  3. IS project. Changes in scope that were introduced were not properly evaluated prior to inclusion in the project.

Moreover, IS projects over running budget and over running schedule are interrelated which can lead to project failures.

               Sub-fields of IS projects failure in experiencing economies remains in need of more studies. Special issues of MISQ showed affection towards illustrating new topics within the field of IS in developing world. Such as "Action Research for Information Systems" is one of the special issues of MISQ in 2004 focused on topic providing better TRACING sense of acknowledgment amongst the research and actual practice in the field of IS projects. Avgerou in year 2000 also stated towards the lack of information within the scholastic field of IS projects. "Despite the timeliness of the issues it addresses and its practical relevance, the IS field has not attained a particularly prominent position within academia yet, even in the regions where it is widely studied" (Avgerou, 2000, p.568). Previous research in government IS project failure in developing countries have more emphasized on dozens of factors effecting project success. In the sense of comparison to private owned IS project in developing world, "Public information and projects which could impact core developmental issues are far more complex and have often met with little success" (Yeo, 2002, p.124). Under government most of IS projects sectors are usually vital in size involving many individuals, government divisions, stakeholders, politicians, international organizations and bureaucrats etc. Generally, these kinds of government projects are massive because they are mostly offended for political and governmental divisions, military forces and federal agencies which are always enrolling many employers, individuals and private partners. Additionally, politicians always willing to take full control of major government regulated IS projects in Pakistan, which directly involves the IS project failures.


               "The overall development of the IS field has not been a case of smooth progress" (Avgerou,2000, p.575). In the field of IS many developing economies are facing problems. On other hand, the condition of IS behavior in a Pakistan are still in under pressure as greater part of government IS projects are still on papers only. With steady and accurate speed Pakistan has experienced ICT conversion. The only undistinguished part of this whole process is the information that irresistible majority of this conversion was made in classified sector with no progress whatsoever are gained in government / public sectors. There are some cases of government sectors like PTCL (Pakistan Telecommunication Ltd.) which got benefited from the overall ICT conversion in the country.


               There are very significant issues which are present in case of IS projects in developing countries. These issues include but are not limited to lack of basic fundamentals corrupt political systems, low economy, poor literacy rate and cultural activities. List of failure factors influencing IS projects is quit lengthy. So many factors have been expressed in previous studies and are related to organizational, management, technical etc which are allocated to different IS projects. Yeo (2002) highlights "the influencing IS projects failure factors and then examines them through two different ways, first, by creating a systemic and integrated framework that is broad enough to identify wide range of possible impacting factors; and secondly, to use and manage the framework to assess the impact of different sets of influencing factors". For examine these critical factors in developing country Singapore's company is highly experienced.

IS project can go through from different sets of factors depending upon criteria, culture, ethics, and condition of particular case. In general developing countries cannot be treated in same manner, because IS project failure factors are different in nature for different developing countries. Different researches have different opinions on different categories of IS failure factors. Yeo in 2002 mentioned different factors and sorted them into different sets according to „Lyytinen and Hirschheim "failure notions which are correspondence failure, process failure, interaction failure and expectation failure". "Attempts to develop IS projects continue to fail, sometimes spectacularly, and it is evident that the reason is rarely technological" (Effy et al., 2001, p.). The remaining of this chapter which is about the different factors (identified in literature) leading towards the failure of IS projects in developing countries will be discussed later on. An effort is made to organize these factors with first to concentrate on existing factors which are commonly present in majority of developing countries (lacking basic infrastructures, low user information, corrupt political leadership etc).


               To support huge IS initiatives, countries with struggling economies cannot support basic ICT infrastructure with such consistency. There are a small number of outstanding developing countries like India and Pakistan, China, etc; where telecommunication and other means of communications are in enhanced condition to support IS projects activities. Moreover, according to Mofleh and Wanous (2008) adequate of infrastructure (providence) as one main factor which held and slowed down ICT activities for many years in Jordan. In addition to this study, Rose (2004) focuses on the difficulties of implementing e-government initiatives in Indonesia were more connected with lack of ICT infrastructure and insisted that it needed to be improved in order to insure smooth running at all time. In another case, a study accomplished by Bra (2001) revealed the urgent need of proper ICT infrastructure require for further development of health information and management systems at district and provincial levels in Mozambique.


                In major complex IS projects most crucial extreme cautions is to be planned. General nature of IS projects failures where government projects usually require extensive time for authentic plans to take place. Despite of the fact, before releasing final any plans, most IS projects involved all common environments which should be examined and analyzed. Ewusi-Mensah suggested that many IS projects does suffer planning stage setbacks with common errors in costing, scheduling and monitoring sections of the plan. An interesting article by Salmela, Lederer, and Reponen, (2000) draws special attention towards project planning of information systems operated under turbulent environment. As described in this document it is quite understandable that IS projects are always challenging and are not easy to deal with. Mostly, IS projects are analyzed for better development and making a unique platform which are precise factors rather then in different influences which depends directly on the culture, working style and environment of particular project to be analyzed, then a proper and more predictable planning technique can be adopted for complete achievement. Setting objectives is important during project life cycle. Unclear project objectives have been noted by IS researchers as a source of project failures (Ewusi-Mensah, 1997 & Schmidt et al., 2001).Most recently researchers predict "the thought provoking aspect of most IS project failure literature comes with the strong claim of opposing old findings with providing results which proves to support the point that new much more complicated IS project environments are not well planned."


                Active and timely communication concerning a project and its status is critical for success and helps overcoming „costly and embarrassing debacles. (Keil et al., 2001, p.1).Factors experienced in government IS projects ,which are massive in size, immense in budget and allow participation of more then one stakeholder refers to lack of communication. In case of these special circumstances for IS projects, proper communication at all time between partners is interrelated. "All the stakeholders in ISD - systems developers, IT users, management and the users clients (the final beneficiaries or losers) - are needed to push the information system project through and to sustain the project and its outcome in a harsh environment" (IS Development in a Developing Country_Nigeria.pdf). An article Project Doomed to Failure: illustrates the predictability and Conspiracy in a Failed IS presents a case where lack of communication along with users, management and partners became a critical factor. "When the project started it soon became apparent that communication with the project team was poor. This lead to problems in developing systems requirements and approving the specifications" (Brown & Jones, 1998, p.81). The significance of IS project life cycle along with all partners, end-users and management should be estimated for gaining positive outcomes.


               Weak and corrupt political state of affairs in common developing countries has also been found to be a vital factor affecting IS projects. Sliva (2002) proposed that developing country political environments tends to be unstable forcing IT / IS projects and their decisions to be driven by reasons which should be convincing rather than irrational. "Sustained efforts needed for public IS initiatives have to be undertaken in a background of constant changes in the social and political environment, and these may not remain supportive over extended periods of time needed to develop large systems" (Krishna & Walsham, 2005, p.129). IS in developing countries literature has constantly focused on importance of difficulties created in result of corrupt and weak political system. Avgerou and Sahay (2002) emphasized on the same concern which regards to GIS initiative in India, "applying a geographic information system in India is not a straight case of an organizational implementation, but needs to take into consideration multiple agencies including international funding bodies like the World Bank, the influence of global agreements like the Rio Summit, and complex systems of bureaucracy that overlap with other political systems" (Avgerou & Sahay, 2002, p.73). In an article about different IS development initiatives in different African countries, Mursu (2000) emphasis on political issues effecting uncertainty of future IS efforts, especially the long ones. Furthermore, he also expressed that forced attitudes of these constraints in Africa are needed to be fixed as it is rising as more common risk of failure in IS field.


                It is vital for senior management to be supportive of a project and to provide the necessary resources to carry it out (Ewusi-Mensah, 1997, p.78). Senior management support the project teams which involves project planning, aims and goals settings, conflict resolution, priority setting, timely provision of funds and project sponsorship (Effy & Sosik, 2000). For carrying out different activities constant and well coordinated senior management support is vital for authentic progress of IS projects where multiple stakeholders and massive budgets are involved. In developing economies, government requires extra top management support and attention because of inflexible surroundings for IS projects. Due to unsupportive top management attitude there are many cases in IS field where projects failed. "When large information systems (IS) projects go away, it often takes weeks, months, and sometimes even years, before senior management becomes fully aware of what has happened" (Keil et al., 2001). Many problems occur due to lack of top management in big projects where more than one party is responsible for total outcome. Ewusi-Mensah (1997) proposed that less and inactive senior management involvement on a project helps create unwanted problematic environment. In a study conducted by Princely Ifinedo (2005), issues related to top management were amongst the most critical risk factors in Estonian IS project.


               Many researchers have been introducing different end-user related issues which include limited to user acceptance, user involvement, user attitude, user knowledge ability, user resistance and so on. It is important to control the end-user concerns in order to achieve overall success in complicated IS projects. Mursu et al., (2000) illustrates the fact of user issues from different IS projects in Nigeria. These IS projects suffered major setbacks due to lack of educated and trained users. "This insecurity in the project life cycle raises human relationship problems, in addition to a risk of project failure" (Mursu et al., 2000). The social and cultural constraints in developing countries require extra government involvement to insure sufficient IT knowledge amongst the users on broader scale. Pradhan & Metcalfe (2001) while assessing government's role in providing IT assistant to users noted that "Nepalese social practices and cultural values differ markedly from Western practices, and as a result, are likely to impact Nepalese user's attitudes towards computers" (Pradhan, & Metcalfe, 2001).


                "Several studies in IS project risk management have surfaced; however, it is regrettable that such studies tend to be centered on mostly western and developed countries, though the problems of failed IS projects is in fact global" (Ifinedo, 2005, p.3). Monitoring IS projects gives management professionals extra to think about as in positive manners. In general, mostly the nature of government IS projects usually are not ideal scenario for managers. In addition, role of effective project management in IS field is becoming hard as the complexity level of this field is increasing every year (Yeo 2000). Generally, in developing countries government requires IS project teams to manage big initiatives with involvements of multiple partners in such projects are creating new challenges for project management teams for the developing countries. "Clearly, management has an important role to play in ensuring that proper management and control practices are adhered to and enforced in IS development projects" (Ewusi-Mensah, 1997, p.77). Drummond (1996) expressed to the link between management strategy and its impact on facing failure in IT ventures and ISD projects. "A review of IS literature on the issues of risk factors in IS and project management indicate that a majority of the research tends to come from the industrialized nations" (Ifinedo, 2005, p.1). The relevant literature on IS project failure presents long list of factors. This chapter has described some critical failure factors which could be influenced most IS projects outcome.