C-Nomis Is Project: Reasons for Failure


From the beginning of the information systems project, expectations are that the project will achieve success as aspired. On the contrary, many projects do not achieve and the rate of failure is alarming. According to Standish Group Chaos Report, over 75% of projects do not achieve their obligations within the timeframe of their implementation and planned resources (Piccoli 123). The report projects the failure rate to increase exponentially over time. Should the failures of such projects project serve as learning platforms for future projects implementation? This assessment seeks to examine the C-Nomis project that failed to achieve its objectives. Funded by the taxpayer, the IS project was seen as a failed public project inviting alternative perspectives. Besides, the paper seeks to make recommendations as a way to increase the success rate of the project.

C-Nomis IS Project Analysis

Starting in 2003, the project sought to improve the efficiency of the prisons’ department in Britain. Estimated to cost the taxpayer approximately ₤243 million, the project was still in its beginning phases by 2007 – its purported completion year. C-Nomis project faced insurmountable challenges regarding the timeframe and allocation of resources. Coupled with other factors entrenched in the public organization culture and behavior such as lack of leadership, teamwork failure as well as ineffective methodology, the project failed.

Staying within the budget limits of the project is a challenge in many aspects. Many projects experience unforeseen expenses that lead to excessive use of resources directed towards the completion of the project (Picolli, p. 72). For the C-Nomis project, the budget almost tripled with the expenditure hitting over ₤650 million. This invited scrutiny from across all domains in which the project would have had affected. Despite frantic efforts by the government to increase the ever-rising budgetary requirements of the project, the completion of the project would have seen the project consume an increase of over 300% (Piccoli, p. 43). Even then, it became clear that the project was indeed poised to fail. As such, the budgetary challenge became one of the many factors that led to the failure of the project.

Besides, the C-Nomis project faced an uphill task within a short time frame of installing an information system that was efficient as opposed to the conventional one. From the onset of a project, there is always the need to ensure that the completion of a project depending on its size ought to invite realistic timeframes within which the project should achieve its objectives. C-Nomis project required overhauling the entire prisons’ system that ideally would require extensive resources as well as time. Nevertheless, the project allocated only four years through which it ought to have achieved its success. This constituted the failure of the project in a substantial way (Piccoli, p. 22).

Further, many experts in project designs and implementation would agree that the human factor in the project remains a huge factor upon which the success of the project is dependent. The team responsible for the project should work together in the project’s implementations. Piccoli projects that dealing with human behavior reflects one of the most challenging concepts within all organizations (p. 56). Leadership abilities and styles through which the team’s ability to deliver success is imperative as is the need for the team to be innovative and flexible. All members of the team ought to believe in the success of the project to succeed. On-the-job training in the emerging aspects of information systems and skills are some of the critical requirements that a team should possess when embarking on a challenging project.

To this respect, the C-Nomis project seems to have failed to establish an effective team that would spearhead the implementation (www.computerweekly.com). The shortage of skilled experts in the team did not only severe the chances of the projects’ success, but it also led to limited opportunities for the team to utilize their creativity and innovativeness for the improvement of the project’s chances of success.

That aside, the department of prisons encountered huge challenges during the C-Nomis pilot project but there seemed to be no substantial amount of flexibility that was shown by the team. Flexibility entails the ability to be responsive to unforeseen risks with measures that are reflective of the situation at hand (Tapscott, p. 93). It is through a flexible approach to projects that enhance the ability of the project to overcome a huge number of challenges presented by the increased need for resources and alteration of the methodology of the project (Piccoli, p. 56). Notwithstanding the numerous signs such as exponential increment in financial resources and time constraints, the C-Nomis team did not adjust their projections accordingly and in harmony with the situations. The project continued as planned as no injunctions were made to mitigate further risk. As such, failure was imminent inviting governments’ to suspend the project.

C-Nomis project also excited interest from the staff members of the prisons across the country. While some saw the project as easing their work and ultimately improving their effectiveness, others cited technical difficulties in the operating of the information systems especially in the retrieval of files and making frequent updates about the department on the website. This is reflective of resistance to technological change, which remains a thorny issue across all organizations. C-Nomis project drew perception of a threat to the employment of the staff members in the department of prisons and as such failed to solicit full support from the stakeholders. It is apparent, therefore, that the C-Nomis team failed to adopt appropriate organizational change concepts that led to the eventual suspension of the project and its failure.

Finally, the project ended up inviting serious politically motivated decisions to the detriment of its success. Many politicians regarded the project as consuming the taxpayers’ funds without real benefits accruing the public. In that regard, the entire project became an issue that stirred political temperatures across the country. The parliament failed to recognize that the project would eventually achieve the planned objectives on the condition that more resources were allocated to the project. Subsequently, the policymakers denied extra funding for the project and voted against the continuation of the project making it a ‘black elephant project’ that not only failed to achieve its success but also tarnished the team’s ability to deliver success on a future project.


C-Nomis project represents a perfect case of failure that came about owing to multiple factors. With the failure rates of projects increasing by the day, the success of a project draws pessimism and many people think of Information System projects as misnomers. To show a great extent of improvements that need to be core in the implementation of IS project, C-Nomis ought to have mitigated the risks of failure and ultimately adopted the right approach. In case the government decides to lift the suspension imposed on the C-Nomis IS project, the following ought to be critical:-

From the start, the C-Nomis project failed to make strategic decisions regarding the achievements of its goals. The team should have ensured that the objectives are achievable within the stipulated timeframe. This would entail ensuring that the project’s goals were realistic and the speed of installation is effective. Besides, allocating a specific timeframe within which the project ought to be complete makes, the implementation of the project not only saves on resources but also enhances effective planning and implementation of the project (Downes, p. 1). About C-Nomis, the implementation of the project that involved installing new software in the prison’s information systems took three years despite its initial planned timeframe of one year. Hence, the developers of the project as well as the entire team need to ensure that their action plan is in line with the spelled out timeframe. This would not only improve the success chances of the project but would constrain the project within the period of the project.

Drawing the experiences of other companies whose projects collapsed during or after their implementation, there is a need for the team to adopt a flexible approach to the project to minimize the effects of resource usage. It is apparent that while many projects have managed to succeed, they end up utilizing more than the priory-projected resources. C-Nomis ought to have ensured that the flexibility of the team to adopt the most efficient way in the projects are adopted along the way without having to follow the planned utilization of resources, which had seen the cost of the project triple in just three years. According to Picolli, the ability of managers to facilitate the team to become efficient implies the urge for the managers to encourage flexibility amongst the team members (p. 73). To that end, the team would have the capacity to adopt the cheapest approach faced by a challenging task that the strategic planners failed to see during the planning process.

While the project failed due to multiple factors, a significant effect was the human factor. Being a public project, the project lacked enough human resources that would be characteristic of high skills and talents. Upon embarking on a project, the team ought to recognize the essence, the crucial role that the team members play, and the level of availability of such resources (Tapscott p. 67). Evidently, with only a team of 43 members aiming to implement a project across the country, the project would have to take a huge amount of time. Hence, the project manager should increase the level of the human skills and talents that are currently lacking within the sector.

The concept of change resistance as an organizational behavior contributed to the failure of the project. Many information systems analysts projects seek to improve the efficiency of a company or an organization by introducing contemporary and modern technology that not only alters the people’s perception of work but it elicits criticism from the stakeholders (Tapscott, p. 67). As such, C-Nomis ought to have recognized that the project would alter the information system of the entire prison’s department and as such, invite tensions within the department. Organizational change theorists argue that introducing technological changes within an organization demands that the management of the team spearheading the project engage all the stakeholders and provide to them the rationale for change. In so doing, the project would have elicited support from the prison’s staff boosting its chances for success. User resistance arises due to a lack of user involvement in the design and system implementation that results in mistrust and suspicion. The management should engage in staff training, which would provide adequate information to staff thus reducing ignorance and mistrust. Through communication and education, the management can eradicate negative perspectives, for instance, the new system would provide an opportunity to downsize the workforce. Staff training is also a vital tool for minimizing user resistance. Staff training maximizes staff utilization of the system through explicit and implicit means. The training should be as close as possible to live usage so that staff does not get the chance to forget what they learned. The design team should provide user documentation such as manuals that would greatly assist in training. During the physical installation of the system, all interested parties such as hardware and software suppliers should largely be involved.

Specific Action to Address C-Nomis Failure

As evident from the above analysis of the project, there is an evident need for the management to take particular actions to address the above-raised issues. Chiefly, there is the need to make a new strategic planning team that would review the entire project and makes an action plan that is realistic and achievable within the timeframe given. A new strategic planning team would also be in a position to address the resources required throughout the budget instead of incurring extra-budgetary costs as the situations during the implementation demand. With a strategic planner, the IS project would see proper planning of the entire project.

To address the human factor as a probable causative factor for failure in IS projects; the management ought to embark on a strategy to acquire talent and skills amongst the human resources. Considering the need to have a creative and innovative team that plays a huge role in the design, planning, and implementation of IS projects, the management should seek ought for more workers that would be highly competent to implement the project. Besides, retention of the newly hired members of the team should bear priority for the company to reap benefits from the workers if the government would continue funding the C-Nomis project as well as in the future IS projects undertakings.


Conclusively, the C-Nomis project failed to achieve its projected success. Like many projects, it suffered from multiple factors that led to the eventual suspension of the project. The factors included the increment in budgetary and time requirements of the project. Besides, the human factor that implied a lack of enough human resources to undertake the project was evident during the project. Nevertheless, the C-Nomis project should adopt a flexible approach to the project where the resources are utilized prudently and the completion of which falls within the timeframe. In addition to recruiting skilled and talented employees to constitute the team, the company also ought to ensure that a new team of strategic planners oversee future IS projects within the department. Future projects team should be inclusive of all parties to ensure proper system installation and reduce user-management conflict.

Works Cited

  1. Downes, Larry and Beyond Porter. Context Magazine. 2010.
  2. Piccoli, Giuliani. Information Systems for Managers: Value Creation and Strategic Information Systems. New York: Wiley, 2008. Print
  3. Tapscott, Don. Strategy in the New Economy, Strategy & Leadership. San Francisco: Capital Digital, 1997. Print

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