New research led by Senior Research Fellow, Prof Bent Flyvbjerg, identifies why IT projects are disproportionately likely to overrun, with uniquely detrimental effects

St Anne’s Senior Research Fellow, Professor Bent Flyvbjerg, and a team of colleagues (Alexander Budzierc, Jong Seok Leed, Mark Keile, Daniel Lunnf, and Dirk W. Bester) have recently published a study based on their ongoing research into IT project costs, risks and consequences. The study, “The Empirical Reality of IT Project Cost Overruns: Discovering a Power-Law Distribution,” will be published in the Journal of Management Information Systems, vol. 39, no. 3, fall issue.

In brief, the study notes that experts have a tendency to assume that IT cost risk is finite and predictable. As the paper documents, however, the reality is that such risk is infinite and unpredictable. This mismatch between belief and reality explains why IT projects, more than any other type of project, have such a tendency to overrun, costing the careers of CEOs, CIOs, and government ministers, and the life of whole organizations.

Professor Flyvbjerg comments: “I believe the study has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about digitalization and IT project delivery.”

The paper can be read online here.

Prof. Flyvbjerg’s research into megaprojects has attracted global interest, and his book, How Big Things Get Done, co-authored with Dan Gardner, will be available in February 2023 from Penguin Random House. The book offers advice for anyone looking for practical advice on tackling a big, daunting project, from planning an event to launching a startup to publishing a book. It will be of interest to policymakers, real estate developers, architects, product designers, freelancers: anyone whose livelihood depends on delivering projects on time and on budget. The book can be pre-ordered here.