The Proactive Technology Project Recovery Function: A Methodological Analysis
Skinner, Richard James
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Information Systems (IS) failure is widely recognized as a severe and ongoing problem within the IS community. As a significant component of IS failure, troubled IS project delivery is a particularly prevalent occurrence, as exemplified by only 34% of IT projects undertaken by Fortune 500 companies being completed successfully. Consequently, organizations continue to seek innovative approaches to technology project management that effectively mitigates the risk of project failure. This dissertation examines a novel approach to such a scenario by investigating the concept of a project function tasked with proactively managing failing projects to closure. By examining this role in detail, this dissertation seeks to acquire managerial insights into the different components that distinguish this troubled project recovery approach from a typical project management response. However, to achieve these aims, there is a need to identify those methodologies most capable of providing insight into this subject. Therefore, this dissertation comprises three essays that, considered together, provide the IS discipline with a framework with which to explore the project recovery function in depth. The first essay provides a comprehensive analysis of the Delphi method, which is a structured approach for seeking the opinion of a group of experts. Insofar as explorative interviews have been undertaken with members of a project recovery function in a global technology organization, utilizing the Delphi method supports this dissertation’s aim by providing a framework for the IS discipline to leverage experts’ knowledge on how best to exploit such a project recovery structure. However, there is a need not only to acquire expert knowledge, but also to review and synthesize the diverse literature on project recovery. In as much as the relevant empirical studies are predominantly qualitative in nature and reside across many disciplines, the second essay will focus on the nature and use of the qualitative synthesis group of methodologies. This group embraces a synthesis perspective that integrates multiple qualitative studies relating to a particular topic to acquire an enhanced understanding of a phenomenon. By undertaking a detailed review of this suite of methodologies, so the knowledge required to synthesize the troubled project literature will become accessible. Finally, the third essay structures an explorative investigation into the proactive technology project recovery function itself. As shown, for the proactive project recovery function to become a value-added component of the organization, it needs to go through a development process. This involves it traversing seven stages of evolution, ranging from identifying the antecedent conditions necessary for the function’s creation, through to the team’s disbandment due to the knowledge for undertaking a recovery being disseminated across the organization and there being few if any failing projects left to recover. This dissertation also demonstrates that the skills and attributes necessary for being a project recovery specialist differ to that of a typical project manager; alternative skills and attributes include advanced negotiation, diplomacy, communication to the executive level, and knowledge of a project recovery methodology. By adopting a three-essay approach, the empirical findings from this dissertation has the potential to illuminate how organizations can effectively mitigate the damaging outcomes arising from failing technology projects via the use of a proactive project recovery team.