The 2009 Chaos Report – Is Project Success Really that Rare?

The Standish Group released its widely quoted report (available for purchase here) on project success in April 2009. The latest report is based on a survey of more than 300 organizations and 30 interviews. A summary of the findings is shown in the figure below.


The news is not very positive. According to this report the number of IT projects that failed has actually increased since 2006, successful projects are also alarmingly harder to find. Here is a far smaller and less official survey on software project success rates.

From our own experience and all the anecdotal evidence I have gathered projects are often late and over budget but they are mostly successful. In my opinion the Standish Group’s survey is overly pessimistic on the success rate of IT projects. I find nothing on the Internet that explains Standish Group’s survey approach or confirms these findings. It would be better if they provided more details as to how they assess project success and how they can backup their claim of a negative trend in worldwide IT project performance.

The report did not highlight any new reasons for the higher project failure rates. There are many more capable and highly qualified project managers today than in 2006, there are better tools, an abundance of easily accessible information on project management lifecycles and methodologies, and better collaboration between all project contributors/stakeholders. I simply cannot see how the end results can be this bad.

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  1. #1 by PM Hut at January 27th, 2010


    I have published the CHAOS results from 1994 to 2009, you can find it here. You can see that the success rate has definitely increased.

  2. #2 by Civile at October 16th, 2009

    I possibly can’t comment entirely on the report since I don’t know if we are looking at the figures as a whole in terms of projects or a differentiation.

    I however can speak for the IT results and their succeeding and failure. Here we can make two very distinctive remarks. Projects in highly political sensitives organizations and projects in commercial oriented and driven organizations.

    I seldom have seen real good figures, estimates, and results in political environments. Stronger I may say that these environments have clear tendency to propagate a succes on bases of personal view and achievement rather then real accountable results and measurable prospect. Here I find that the succesfull conclusion of projects is 45%.

    Reasons for succes or faillure can be multiple. However they can be listed as following.


    1. Good and transparant communication between parties involved
    2. Clear understanding of objectives
    3. Clear personal commitment and transparancy
    4. High sense of one-ness and sense of mutual responsibility
    5. Result driven with sense for accountability

    1. Personal and individual aim and gain
    2. Disputable project planning and goals
    3. Politics
    4. Poor awareness of mutual cooperation
    5. Poor sense of responsibility

    Basically I experienced these factors eminent present triggering other positive or negative there after.

    In IT I have experienced, even after a few dips, that still we can find the real gain in transparency in communication between IT and non IT management. So as far as the figures of Standish might be a little buyest however there surely are bases for improvement.


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