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

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


123 failure ‘depends on who you ask’ and perceptions of success and failure may change over time (Larsen and Myers 1999; Wilson and Howcroft 2002). The Standish Group sees success in narrow terms if a project is delivered on time and on budget, with functions and features delivered as originally specified. KPMG has defined ‘runaway projects’ to be those that overrun their projected budget or completion date by more than 30 percent, while others have proposed an overrun on budget or timeframe of 100 percent as a measure of failure (Cole 1995; Glass 1998). However, failure does not necessarily imply only technical failure – that is, even if a system performs as its designers intend, it may not be used as intended, or used at all, and so still be considered as a failure (Dutton et al. 1995; Gauld and Goldfinch 2006; Laudon and Laudon 1998). Even projects that meet design specifications may not increase worker productivity or deliver other gains expected – productivity may even decrease. Indeed there is considerable debate regarding productivity and other benefits of IS in the last three decades, in both the public and private sectors and in the economy generally, and whether some of the large investments in e-government have delivered promised benefits (Brown and Brudney 2003; Coltman et al. 2001; Economist 2008; Gauld and Goldfinch 2006; Holden 2003; Norris and Moon 2005). Benefits may not offset the costs of development; indeed a long project can cause years of serious and costly disruption to operations that...

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