In our observation, an imprecise formulation of project goals, unclear distribution of competences and, in part, insufficient training and skills in the application of project management methods are the most frequent causes for the failure of projects for the digitalisation of public administration. And such failure is not uncommon - according to various studies, only every second project in this area is completed successfully.
Unclear goals and lack of participation
The lack of precision in the formulation of project goals leads, on the one hand, to a lack of orientation among those involved in the project and, on the other hand, to a dangerous life of its own of sub-projects that lack a common goal and cannot be meaningfully integrated in the end. Rework, delays or even the failure of the entire project are the consequences.
Unclear or even competing competences are another noticeable problem when different departments or multiple authorities are involved in a project. Constructive cooperation is then often replaced by the pursuit of particular interests, which makes goal-oriented action difficult. In such a constellation, in extreme cases, someone is given decision-making powers, but cannot enforce them across the project. For example, in the federal government's digitisation project, the project management is in the hands of the Ministry of the Interior, which, however, has no right to issue instructions to other ministries and service providers involved.
Little experience in IT project management
Insufficient experience and knowledge in IT project management and related methods also often lead to considerable problems. For example, project managers are often appointed on the basis of their technical expertise, with elementary skills for managing and controlling projects being given secondary consideration. Such project managers then usually also have little or no experience with project management methodologies such as PRINCE2®, which is therefore inefficient - resulting in cost and schedule overruns. Overall, in the consultants' experience, controlling is also not given adequate importance. Measurable criteria are too often replaced by a vague gut feeling when evaluating partial results or project progress.
Lack of acceptance by users
But even if a project can be technically implemented within the set cost and time frame, success is not guaranteed. Lack of user acceptance is one of the most common reasons why project goals are not achieved. In such a case, internal project marketing and accompanying change management activities were neglected in order to involve the users from the beginning, to make the path to new technologies transparent to them and also to make their own advantages clear to them.
"A clear strategic objective, a precise description of benefits and a solid economic calculation are the cornerstones of every successful IT project, also in public administration," comments our Head of Digital Services Advisory Tobias Beckmann. "Competent project management and the use of established project methods also help to avoid undesirable developments and delays. In addition, testing and rollout must be carefully planned and users must be consistently accompanied to ensure a smooth transition into ongoing operations."