The last few months have been joyful. I have had a chance to mingle with a number of innovators as I wrote my book. Many are focused on the Grand Challenges the word faces - environmental, engineering etc. It is so exciting to see them focused on the big, honking, hairy problems we face.
In contrast, one of the darkest moments in my career came a few years ago when I was visiting the chief executive of a well-known institution. They were about to start an ERP project but he might as well have been a man headed for the gallows. Head hung low - all he could talk about how much of an overrun he needed to prepare his organization for. And his project had not even started. I felt sick - never felt so un-proud of my chosen profession. I could not give him much hope that his pessimism was unjustified. Even after the experience of hundreds of thousands of ERP and other enterprise projects, they fail at alarmingly high rates.
Why do we continue to accept this industry blight, smart as we are as an industry? And worse, why do we blame "stupid customers" for these failures? Or why do smart people like my friend Mike Krigsman continue to talk about "everybody's to blame"? Shared blame without root cause analysis is no blame. It's the cop out as when cops choose not to issue tickets in car accidents. It's the equivalent of the car insurance company saying "let's all be one happy family and share the cost of an accident equally".
In custom development projects, with no external consultants, of course the buyer is to blame for a failed project. In projects where they recklessly ignore the implementer's advice, you can understand it's their fault. But when a systems integrator who in proposals boasts about having done similar projects hundreds of times, and when the software vendor trains and certifies the consultants and does pre-go-live checks - versus a buyer team which is likely implementing it for the first time, how can we in good conscience blame the "stupid customer"?
It's not just ERP projects. IT and telecom vendors get 80 to 90% of the average company's technology spend. It's time for them to step up - mano a mano - and take responsibility, not get their attorneys to posture customers deserve most of the blame. And for pete's sake, when will we be embarrassed as an industry after decades we cannot still do well such mundane implementations compared to some of the Grand Challenges others are stepping up to tackle.