GRA6821 Tenth lecture: Project disasters and IT service delivery

This lecture will deal with issues that are (at least superficially) boring but eminently practical: How to avoid systems disasters, and how to deliver IT services within a company. The system disaster we will talk about is CONFIRM, an ambitious project to try to replicate the success of the SABRE reservation system in the hotel and rental car industries. In my experience, it is a real career helper to a) be able to understand when a project is beginning to acquire a whiff of disasterhood, and b) how IT services are provided inside large companies, whether you want to work there of sell your services to either the company or the IT department. The latter you can learn in two hours in a classroom or in two years in a company.

Read and be prepared to discuss:

  • "The Collapse of CONFIRM: What went wrong?", p. 534 in Laudon & Laudon: Management Information Systems, Fourth edition, Prentice-Hall, 1996
    (You might want to go back and revisit Max Hopper’s article on "Rattling SABRE", note the role of CONFIRM in it)
  • Oz, E. (1994). When Professional Standards are Lax: The CONFIRM Failure and its Lessons.Communications of the ACM, 37(10), 29-36.
  • Various other notes, see Blackboard.
  • Langewische, W. (1998). "The Lessons of ValuJet 592." Atlantic Monthly (March).
  • The Concours Group (2004): Service-centric IT (in Blackboard). A consulting report on how to organize an IT department.

Recommended literature:

  • Weill, P. and R. Woodham (2002). Don’t Just Lead, Govern: Implementing Effective IT Governance. Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Center for Information Systems Research. Available (number 326) from CISR’s paper web page
  • Weill, P. and S. Aral (2004). IT Savvy Pays Off. Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Center for Information Systems Research. Available (number 353) from CISR’s paper web page
  • Weill, P. and M. Broadbent (1998). Leveraging the New Infrastructure. Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press. Good book on IT management.

Study question:

  • Looking at the CONFIRM disaster – what were the technical reasons for the failure, the organizational (management) reasons, and the strategic (business) reasons?
  • How is running an IT shop (inside an organization), an outsourcing company, and an IT consulting company different – and similar – to each other?
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