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IT Project Success Rates: 2010 Open Research

This open research into IT project success rates was performed during the months of May and June and there was 203 respondents. The survey was announced in my April 2010 DDJ newsletter, Enterprise Architecture: Reality Over Rhetoric, in Jon Erickson’s blog, on the Ambysoft announcements list, and on my Twitter feed.

The Survey Results

The survey results will be summarized in my July 2010 Agile Update entitled 2010 IT Project Success Rates.

Some findings include:

  • As you can see in Figure 1, Agile and Iterative project teams have statistically identical success rates
  • As you can see in Figure 1, ad-hoc project teams (no defined process) and traditional project teams have lower success rates that agile/iterative project teams
  • When it comes to time/schedule, 54% prefer to deliver on time according to the schedule and 44% prefer to deliver when the system is ready to be shipped
  • When it comes to money, 35% prefer to deliver within budget and 60% prefer to provide good return on investment (ROI)
  • When it comes to functionality, 14% prefer to build the system to specification and 85% prefer to meet the actual needs of stakeholders
  • When it comes to quality, 40% prefer to deliver on time and on budget and 57% prefer to deliver high-quality, easy-to-maintain systems
  • Respondents indicated that functionality was their most important success criteria, followed by quality, time/schedule, and money (in order)
  • Only 10% of respondents indicated that their definition of success on their most recent project included all three of delivering according to schedule, within budget, and to the specification.
    None of the business stakeholders who responded to the survey defined success in this way.


Figure 1. Perceived IT project success rates by paradigm.



Survey questions

The Survey Questions(130K)

Survey Data File

Raw Data(71K)

Survey Presentation

Summary Presentation(118K)


What You May Do With This Information

You may use this data as you see fit, but may not sell it in whole or in part. You may publish summaries of the findings, but if you do so you must reference the survey accordingly (include the name and the URL to this page). Feel free to contact me with questions. Better yet, if you publish, please let me know so I can link to your work.


Discussion of the Results

  1. It’s difficult to get a good estimate of project success rates because there isn’t a standard definition of success (nor will there ever be). So, if I define success specifically, for example as “reasonably on time, on budget, to specification” that definition will be applicable for some projects but not others. So, I could presumably get an accurate estimate of how well we’re doing against that criteria but it wouldn’t be the actual industry success rate. If, however, I define allow people to define success in terms of how it was defined for the actual projects then I’ll get a much more accurate estimate of project success rates but I won’t know exactly
  2. This survey suffers from the fundamental challenges faced by all surveys.


Links to Other Articles/Surveys

  1. My other surveys


Why Share This Much Information?

I’m sharing the results, and in particular the source data, of my surveys for several reasons:

  1. Other people can do a much better job of analysis than I can. If they publish online, I am more than happy to include links to their articles/papers.
  2. Once I’ve published my column summarizing the data in DDJ, I really don’t have any reason not to share the information.
  3. Too many traditionalists out there like to use the “where’s the proof” question as an excuse not to adopt agile techniques. By providing some evidence that a wide range of organizations seem to be adopting these techniques maybe we can get them to rethink things a bit.
  4. I think that it’s a good thing to do and I invite others to do the same.