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Performance and decision-making in major ICT programmes: problems, causes, cures

Alexander Budzier & Bent Flyvbjerg

Pilot studies indicate that performance in major ICT programmes is even more problematic than in other types of major programmes, resulting in waste of taxpayers' and shareholders' money for public and private projects, respectively.

Project sponsors are key decision makers on large-scale ICT projects. Sponsors decide, for instance, whether or not to do a project, how to prioritise between projects, define scope and size. These decisions influence greatly the success of a project.

This research aims to understand project sponsor decision-making, its limitations, and areas for improvement. The core questions of this research are:

(a) How do stakeholders/project sponsors decide upon their ICT projects? 
(b) What are the shortcomings in ICT decision-making, if any?
(c) What are their root causes?
(d) How can inefficiencies in sponsors' management be overcome?
(e) Is it possible to develop quantitative tools to support decision-making?
(f) If so, how can such a quantitative tool help? Methodologically the research is based on a survey of 50-100 large-scale ICT projects that form part of major ICT programmes.

The survey is aimed at analyses of costs, effort, schedule escalations, and benefit shortfalls; project and environmental factors; project and portfolio management practices; and the role of project sponsors. The survey is followed up 3-5 in-depth case studies aimed at understanding decision- and sense-making of stakeholders as well as practices to overcome shortcomings in decision-making. The theoretical contribution of the research is expected to be in theories of quality in decision making.

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