This doesn't make eBay a bad company. Given its success, it's hard to criticize its decision, either. The folks running it have decided the cost of providing that level of customer service would be higher than any benefit it might get from the improved customer retention and referrals.
So there are no IT projects, only projects that in some way, shape, or form are intended to increase revenue, decrease costs, or improve the company's risk profile.
Seems elementary, doesn't it? You'd think the point wouldn't be at all controversial.
But it is. I can prove it. A lot of companies still think they have IT projects, which means a lot of companies have project teams who think their work is done when the software is up and running, satisfies the requirements, and meets the specifications.
Here's another test. Take a look at your company's list of approved projects. If your company is like most, they'll have names like "SAP implementation" or "warehouse management system" or "merchandising system." See the common thread? They're named after the information technology.
Names have enormous power; they shape how people think. Even if the actual purpose of putting in a warehouse management system is to reduce operating costs while increasing shipping accuracy, when time gets tight and the heat is on, the project team is likely to narrow its focus to laserlike intensity, with the goal of installing the software -- plain vanilla, please -- to make the deadline and stay within the budget.
Just one problem: Installing the system plain vanilla might keep IT's operating costs down, but it probably won't do much to help warehouse management in the same regard. But that's OK because the Warehouse Management System project was an IT project, and it succeeded; the information technology got installed, had few defects, and runs efficiently.
How about IT infrastructure upgrades? Glad you asked. They fit this thought process just fine. They're risk mitigation efforts, as everyone in IT knows and hopes everyone else trusts them about, because explaining why obsolete technology that works fine constitutes a business risk is very tedious.
In the face of this logic, some companies will continue to charter IT projects -- those that are finished when the software is done. That's because of the worst problem with IT projects: They're good for the sponsor and good for the developers. No, that isn't a joke.
If you're a canny business executive, there's little more important for advancing your career than promoting bold, important change to lead your organization into the future. It's good for your image in the executive suite, gives you visibility to the board of directors, and looks great on your resume. Actually implementing bold, important change, on the other hand, is seriously risky, because the change you're boldly leading might not pan out as hoped.