De-Escalating IT Projects: The DMM Model

Communications of the ACM, (52:10), October, 2009, pp. 131-134

Posted: 21 Apr 2013

See all articles by Donal Flynn

Donal Flynn

Independent

Gary Pan

Singapore Management University - School of Accountancy

Mark Keil

Georgia State University

Magnus Mahring

Independent

Date Written: December 20, 2009

Abstract

Taming runaway information technology (IT) projects is a challenge that most organizations have faced and that managers continue to wrestle with. These are projects that grossly exceed their planned budgets and schedules, often by a factor of 2-3 fold or greater. Many end in failure; failure not only in the sense of budget or schedule, but in terms of delivered functionality as well. Runaway projects are frequently the result of escalating commitment to a failing course of action,11 a phenomenon that occurs when investments fail to work out as envisioned and decision-makers compound the problem by persisting irrationally. Keil, Mann, and Rai reported that 30-40% of IT projects exhibit some degree of escalation. To break the escalation cycle, de-escalation of commitment to the failing course of action must occur so that valuable resources can be channeled into more productive use. But, making de-escalation happen is neither easy nor intuitive. This article briefly examines three approaches that have been suggested for managing de-escalation. By combining elements from the three approaches, we introduce a de-escalation management maturity (DMM) model that provides a useful framework for improving practice.

Keywords: De-escalation, Maturity Model

JEL Classification: M40

Suggested Citation

Flynn, Donal and Pan, Gary and Keil, Mark and Mahring, Magnus, De-Escalating IT Projects: The DMM Model (December 20, 2009). Communications of the ACM, (52:10), October, 2009, pp. 131-134. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2254188

Donal Flynn

Independent ( email )

Gary Pan (Contact Author)

Singapore Management University - School of Accountancy ( email )

60 Stamford Road
Singapore 178900
Singapore

Mark Keil

Georgia State University ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA 30302
United States

Magnus Mahring

Independent ( email )

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