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Mark Seneschall is an independent researcher and writer specialising in organisational transformation and IT project and programme management, drawing on over 30 years practical experience, much of this with BP, and latterly as an independent consultant providing advice and support to different organisations on IT and transformation projects. He is a qualified accountant, and has a Ph.D from Cambridge University. He is married with two daughters and lives in Buckinghamshire.
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Research Item (4)
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- The Anatomy of IT Projects
Previous chapters of the book perhaps provide quite a bleak assessment of the IT projects landscape – not so much that such undertakings are complex, but that there appear to be some quite visceral and fundamental human predilections at play which lead to a widespread tendency to underestimate the complexity inherent within them, and perhaps also to overestimate the individual and collective ability of those involved to address this complexity. This chapter on the other hand, sets out some of the interventions that organisations can take to mitigate the risks and maximise the potential for success. In the first instance, in the same way that the initial step towards overcoming alcoholism is to acknowledge that there is a problem, by recognising the tendencies referred to, and by being much more cognisant of the multi-faceted nature of these sorts of undertakings, and of all the different potential sources of complexity (non-technical as well as technical), organisations put themselves in a much stronger position to succeed when they embark upon them. And while there no panaceas which can guarantee success, there are things which organisations can do to increase the chances of at least a good result.
This paper seeks to provide a case study of the 'multi-faceted' transformation activities undertaken in the Finance, Control and Accounting function within one part of BP over a six or seven year period beginning in 2001/2. The paper describes the approach taken, the thinking behind it, the mechanisms employed, and the results obtained, and based on this attempts to draw some conclusions which may have applicability to other transformation initiatives.
The article provides a short summary of my book on IT projects
This chapter is part of a wide-reaching analysis of IT projects, entitled 'The anatomy of IT projects: why they're hard and why they fail - A guide to the complexities, and how to negotiate them'. The analysis demonstrates that an IT project is a complex, multi-faceted undertaking, embracing a diverse mixture of different activities and intricacies – only some of which are actually technical matters relating directly to 'Information Technology' per se; in reality, a greater proportion of the challenges encountered probably relate to the various human and organisational dynamics surrounding the project. The evidence also shows a clear propensity for IT projects to run into all kinds of different difficulties. This is attributed principally to the failure on the part of those involved in such projects to appreciate and respond adequately to the full suite of complexity that these sorts of projects encounter. This chapter sets out to explore why this should be the case - with key factors being naivety and a widespread human tendency to underestimate the complexity involved in things of which we are ignorant, and the desire on the part of IT professionals and the IT industry to undertake ever more challenging and ambitious projects.
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