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Caroline Kiselev

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin
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+41 71 224 3800

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While agile principles and methods have become mainstream in IT solution development, they have also immersed project management and organizational design. This process, however, is gradual so that management and governance practice of digital transformation programs (DTP) often have to deal with a coexistence of agile and traditional components. Such coexistence leads to tensions as some agile principles and methods are incompatible with or even contrary to their traditional counterparts. Drawing on existing discourses on tensions and governance, the purpose of this paper is to (1) identify and analyze such tensions in the context of complex DTP, (2) explore the corresponding challenges for program governance, and (3) derive requirements to enhance current DTP governance practice to deal with those challenges. The data gathered from an in-depth revelatory dual-case study of large DTPs let us identify 18 tensions, 17 corresponding governance challenges, and derive 10 requirements for a “change-mode-agnostic” governance system.

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Despite growing project management maturity, the failure rate of IT-related projects remains high. We investigated four large IT-related projects within the Swiss Federal Administration that were well-managed but still failed. We found that these projects failed because of poor project governance, in particular inadequate handling of project context by the project sponsor and steering committee. We identify five contextual factors that steering committees should focus on and provide recommendations for strengthening context-aware project governance, illustrated by their implementation in the Swiss Federal Administration.

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For decades much effort has been made to improve project management capabilities. Still, the failure rate remains high, especially for large IT projects. Our postmortem analysis of 15 large IT projects of the Swiss Federal Administration, with an accumulated loss of one billion U.S. dollars, shows that while project management deficits account for some of the failures, project failure is primarily caused by poor project governance capabilities. Based on insights gained from the initial failure analysis, the Swiss Federal Government decided to assess all its large IT projects based on our co-designed framework. Meanwhile, also private companies have assessed IT projects applying our framework. As a consequence, valuable discussions and measures have been initiated and sporadically projects were stopped. The data gained by these assessments will allow to identify patterns that promise to be a reference for governance actors and bodies what information to ask for, when to intervene, and how.

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