A Critical Review Essay example

Submitted By timhinwood
Words: 1022
Pages: 5

A Critical Review of Flyvbjerg and Budzier, Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think, Harvard Business Review, September 2011 and Upton and Staats, Radically Simple IT, Harvard Business Review, March 2008.


Flyvbjerg and Budzier (2011) present the notion of the IT project ‘black swan’, that is, “high-impact events that are rare and unpredictable but in retrospect seem not so improbable”. The research undertaken in this article goes to expose the amount of ‘black swans’ that occur amongst IT projects. Through a range of examples the piece goes on to explore why and how these events occur and offers some guidance to help avoid them.

Upton and Staats (2008) argue that the ‘path-based approach’ to designing and implementing an Enterprise IT system is the best approach. Decade-long research has led them to the cementing of this method through the realisation of high costs and difficulties associated with integrating off-the-shelf and packaged systems. Their paper outlines the advantages of adopting the path-based method, highlighted through the example of the Japanese based Shinsei Bank.

Both journals offer an interesting insight into the implementation of IT projects, how they can struggle and ways they can flourish. Considering both articles are factual based, a large degree of reality is presented through the arguments, therefore giving a fairly objective opinion on the topic.


Flyvbjerg and Budzier’s article highlights some of the biggest issues faced with IT projects. Using the example of Levi Strauss, they explain how poorly planned projects can lead to significant financial blowouts. They go on to show how management lead decisions can have an enormous ill-effect on technological implementation if communication channels are not clear. In the case of Airbus, it was discovered halfway into the A380 project that different teams were using different versions of development software, resulting in configuration issues.

The article reveals some best ways for managers to reduce the associated risks when initiating an enterprise system overhaul:
Internally stress test the company to ensure it can cope with the potential financial blowout and the realisation of limited amounts of added value
Break down the project into small pieces (modular design)
Create contingency plans
Adopt “reference class forecasting” Ensure careful attention to detail

Upton and Staats make evident that the path based approach will give you a cheaper and superior framework than off-the-shelf software. They focus on some of the main issues with traditional roll-out methods and how the path based approach helps alleviate these issues. The fundamental problem with conventional enterprise IT projects is that they take too long and become too expensive, making it difficult to grow the business and modify the system to suit. Shinsei bank proves the path based approach allows room for continued development through reduced costs and support of growth.
The key principals to a successful implementation of the path based approach are:
Complete merging of the IT and Business strategies
Keeping the technology simple
Create a truly modular system
Enablement of user influence


Although both articles share a similar aim; in showing that enterprise IT projects should not be taken lightly and need to be carefully measured before implementation. Flyvbjerg and Budzier present a negatively high-impact piece with a multitude of examples, whilst Upton and Staats concentrate on one example with an overall positive feel. Through different methods, both positive and negative styles offer the same relative outcome – that there are ways and means to avoid these “black swans” through adoption of simple and cost effective solutions.

Using extensive analysis, each article provides a deep level of understanding on the topics and concerns raised, whilst keeping the dialogue easy to understand. For