International Handbook of Public Management Reform
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International Handbook of Public Management Reform

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Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis

This major Handbook provides a state-of-the-art study of the recent history and future development of international public management reform.
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Chapter 7: Dangerous Enthusiasms and Information Systems Development in the Public Sector

Shaun F. Goldfinch


7 Dangerous enthusiasms1 and information systems development in the public sector Shaun F. Goldfinch The ubiquity of failure of information systems developments (ISDs) has only recently started to receive the attention it deserves (Economist 2008). This degree of failure is indeed rather frightening, with the majority of developments unsuccessful.2 The bigger the development, the more likely it will be unsuccessful. While exact numbers are uncertain, and depend to some extent on how success is measured, something like 20 to 30 percent of developments in the public and private sectors are total failures with projects abandoned. Around 30–60 percent are ‘partial failures’ where there are time and cost overruns and/or other problems. The remainder are those counted as successes (Collins and Bicknell 1997; Corner and Hinton 2002; Grenny et al. 2007; Heeks 2002; 2004; Heeks and Bhatnagar 1999; James 1997; Korac-Boisvert and Kouzmin 1995; Standish Group 2004). The Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Computer Society (2004) found that 84 percent of public sector ISDs resulted in failure of some sort. A US survey of IS developments in the public and private sectors by the Standish Group (2004) estimated success rates at 29 percent, problems with 53 percent of projects and 18 percent failure rates. Cost overruns averaged 56 percent, while time overruns averaged 84 percent. A New Zealand government study judged 38 percent of government projects a success, 59 percent involved problems, and 3 percent were a complete failure or were cancelled. Government success rates were slightly higher...

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