A Review – Cultural Factors on ICT Project Success

The purpose of this document is to examine whether culture impacts the success of ICT projects. Every organization has its unique culture and for this reason, it is necessary to select cultural dimensions that are common across organization types. Researchers have found that there are several national cultural dimensions that are common throughout various geographic regions.

The Standish Group (1995) studied Information Technology (IT) projects in 365 companies. The report revealed that only 12% of the projects were successful. The remaining 88% of the projects surveyed were either challenged (i.e. failing to meet one of the triple constraints of “time”, “scope”, “budget”) or impaired (not making it to completion). In a follow-up study, Sauer, Gemino, and Reich (2007) results supported the findings of a low project success rate. The studies that examined factors that lead to IT project success highlighted the relationships among project outcomes, structural changes, and change management problems. However, not much was reported on the relationship between cultural factors and project success, even though the case study highlighted instances of cultural factors impeding the success of the project (for example, the report states that “Probably 90% of application project failure is due to politics!” and “… you have to make a decision you don’t like, even against your own nature” (Standish Group, 1995, p.5)).

Cohen (2010) views culture as a collection of attributes that an individual learns from a group or population, e.g., values, beliefs, and rituals, which is constituted from the fact that people have “different intellectual, social, and psychological knowledge or intelligence” (Cohen, 2010, p.5). According to Hofstede (1994), the attributes of culture (values, beliefs, behavior, symbols, etc.) can be broadly classified into different layers. Each layer illustrates the uniqueness of a group of people. This classification, however, is also dependent on the hierarchy of the group of people, i.e., looking at everyone as one population, in segments, or from an individual perspective.

Hofstede, G. (1994), Hofstede, G. (1984) research aims at finding both national and organizational culture that influences management.
National Culture:
1. Power Distance
2. Individualism versus Collectivism
3. Masculinity versus Femininity
4. Uncertainty Avoidance
5. Long Term versus Short Term Orientation
Organizational Culture:
1. Process-oriented versus Results-oriented
2. Job-oriented versus Employee-oriented
3. Professional versus Parochial
4. Open System versus Closed System
5. Tightly versus Loosely Controlled
6. Pragmatic versus Normative

A detailed study of my paper can be found in the University of Liverpool Libary, “An Investigation on the Impact of Cultural Factors on ICT Project Success”. The research showed that three of Hofstede’s national cultural dimensions played a major role in the determination of ICT project success and failure. The interaction of the cultural dimensions that impacted project success are listed below. The list below also is based on its weighted effects on project success.
1. Uncertainty Avoidance
2. Power Dimension
3. Long and Short Term Orientation

Uncertainty Avoidance
The research has confirmed that project success is dependent on the organization’s ability to remove uncertainties within the project life cycle. This can only be achieved by the organization’s ability to adopt a strong culture of uncertainty avoidance.

Power Distance
The Power Distance dimension is defined as the degree of inequality of power distribution within a country. The research shows that countries with high power distribution cultures strive on centralized decision-making, policymaking, authoritative leadership are vulnerable to having high failures of ICT projects. Zmud’s (1982) study also supports this finding as an environment that shows high power distance, cultural attributes tend to stifle innovation, which also impedes the success of ICT adaption.

Long and Short Term Orientation
Long-term versus short-term orientation focuses on cultures that have a strong connection to their values and traditions. The research found that very short-term planning and orientation contribute to project failures. Erumban and De Jong (2006) carried similar research on ICT adoption by measuring computers per capita with respect to the five cultural dimensions. The research found countries that have a short-term orientation culture have a higher adoption rate of ICT. While this may be true as these countries embrace changes to the status quo. Hence organizations in emerging markets are forced to embrace constant changes within their environment for their own sustainability. Thus supporting Erumban and De Jong (2006) research on having a culture that is open to new ideas as opposed to one that strongly embraces traditional views. While this research is not opposing this view, the finding of this research simply anchors on the view that ICT success is dependent on an organizational culture that nurtures planned strategies when compared to ad-hoc or short-term strategies.

Hofstede, G. (2006) ‘What did GLOBE really measure? Researchers’ minds versus respondents’ minds’, Journal of International Business Studies, 37(6), pp.882-896.
Hofstede, G. (1994) ‘The business of international business is culture’, International business review, 3(1), pp.1-14.
Hofstede, G. (1984) ‘Cultural dimensions in management and planning ‘. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 1(2), pp.81-99.
Sauer, C., Gemino, A., & Reich, B. H. (2007) ‘The impact of size and volatility on IT project performance.’ Communications of the ACM, 50(11), pp.79-84.
Standish Group. (1995) Chaos Report[Online]. Available: http://www.spinroot.com/spin/Doc/course/Standish_Survey.htm (Accessed 7 November 2012).
Erumban, A. A., & De Jong, S. B. (2006) ‘Cross-country differences in ICT adoption: a consequence of culture?’, Journal of World Business, 41(4), pp.302-314.
Zmud, R. W. (1982) ‘Diffusion of modern software practices: influence of centralization and formalization’, Management Science, 28(12), pp.1421-1431.
Cohen, S.L. (2010) ‘Effective global leadership requires a global mind set’, Industrial and Commercial Training, 42 (1), pp.3-10.

Categorized as Home