Why over 60% of Data Projects Fail

So much wasted time and investment … but relatively easy to fix.

Organisations today collect and process vast amounts of data across many systems and functions, and the ability to use that data to make smart, informed strategic decisions is essential.

But in a recent market poll, we identified that over 60% of data led projects are failing … and the reason is remarkably simple, it’s caused by a lack of Business Alignment.

Business alignment is when a company’s people, operations, and systems all work together to achieve the organisation’s goals and stated objectives. It’s sometimes called strategic alignment, and its intrinsically linked to a company’s ‘go to market’ strategy.

Data projects represent significant value to a company and are vital to both business transformation and the longevity of an organisation- highlighting the importance of successful business alignment.

Having worked in this area for over 10 years, I’ve identified the main reasons why such projects fail, and they’re fairly easy to fix.

The three main reasons are:

  1. Lack of Colleague Engagement

For a project to be successful, it’s important that at the very least, all functions and individuals involved in, or impacted by the project, need to understand why the business is doing it. Key questions like why the project is important, what business value will be delivered, and how it will benefit the workforce, must be positioned and explained before the project begins.

All too often I hear how difficult it is to get project engagement across the business, due to the workforce being unable to see the value of the project. The single biggest challenge of any change initiative is engaging people so that they’re ready, willing and able to adopt new ways of working – to the point where they are prepared to invest emotion and time in supporting the project.

  1. Against Change – Fear of the Future

People fear the unknown for many reasons. Employees may think they are at risk of being replaced by technology, and therefore supporting the project represents personal risk. Valued employees may also be struggling to cope with existing workloads, and a perceived disruption due to new systems and processes could be seen to be unwelcome at the very least – exacerbating tensions that are already at breaking point.

  1. Leadership Ambivalence

To become a more data literate organisation the entire company, and especially C-suite executives, need to embrace the change, as there’s often a feeling that board members are not feeling the impact of the change in the same way as the workforce.

We often hear project manager frustrations about limited board level support, and the difficulties in galvanising support across the organisation, when there’s no recognised project champion from the leadership team.

 So, What’s the Answer

The most effective answer is simple – but to quote a well used phrase … ‘there’s nothing so hard as keeping it simple’.

An ability to drive workforce adoption through effective and on-going communication is required, along with a demonstrable show of support and engagement from the top. This needs to be a sustained and joined up communication from the board – and not just a single broadcast message.

A visible and engaged leadership team that is driving the new initiative will highlight the importance to everyone of why the company is doing this. Bringing in new technology to provide improved workflows, reporting, and smarter data insight will have a direct and positive impact for everyone, and this must be seen and understood across the organisation.

The importance of on-going communication about business alignment cannot be overstated, and workforce engagement and system adoption can only be achieved if this is clearly understood.

When employees feel informed and part of the transformation, their motivation changes. They begin to appreciate that the project will help them to be more effective in their roles. They’ll embrace the fact that they’ll have more time to focus on activities that add greater value to the business, and they’ll appreciate spending less time on time burdensome and unproductive admin tasks.

Enabling the workforce to do their jobs more effectively, quickly, and more accurately will eradicate negative feelings and replace them with positive emotions. They’ll understand that by focusing on what’s important they are seen as an integral part of the company’s future.

When the two worlds of business and IT collide, business alignment comes under the spotlight, and without effective communication and engagement planning, a project will run into delays and challenges. If feelings of uncertainty and disillusionment are allowed to develop and undermine a project, it will almost certainly be an expensive failure.

As technology continues to disrupt and challenge the way businesses align their processes, communicate with customers, and deliver their services, it’s never been more important for IT and business to be on the same page.

By understanding and planning effective on-going communication and collaboration, a spiralling upwards of workforce commitment and support will grow, leading ultimately to positive workforce adoption. IT led transformation is key to adapting and responding to business goals, and the result is a more agile business that continues to grow and evolve in uncertain and changing times.

Mark Sippe – Cybit Business Development Director

About Us

At Cybit, we’re experts at delivering data & insight projects that have business alignment at the core and we work with market leading technologies including Qlik, Alteryx, and Power BI.

If you’d like to know more about driving a measurable and effective return on investment for your data transformation project, please get in touch.


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