The costs associated with IT project failure can be substantial and far-reaching. Here are some of the ways businesses may feel the impact:

Financial Loss: Failed IT projects can be a considerable financial burden. Money invested in software, hardware, labor, and other resources is often wasted.

Reputation Damage: Project failures can tarnish a company’s reputation. Clients may lose trust, and potential partners or investors might be hesitant to get involved with an organization known for unsuccessful projects.

Missed Business Opportunities: Perhaps the most significant cost of IT project failure is the missed business opportunities. A project that doesn’t meet its goals can prevent a company from seizing new market opportunities, gaining a competitive edge, or achieving operational efficiencies.

Employee Morale: Project failures can also lead to low employee morale, particularly if the team worked hard but couldn’t deliver a successful project. This can affect productivity and overall workplace satisfaction.


The amount of money wasted can vary widely depending on the scale of the project, the industry, and the specific circumstances. Here are a few high-profile examples of costly IT project failures:

Denver International Airport’s Baggage Handling System (1994):

Initial Budget: $186 million

Final Cost: Approximately $560 million

The automated baggage handling system at Denver International Airport was a high-profile failure. The project faced numerous technical issues and delays, ultimately leading to a significant budget overrun. It’s estimated that the airport lost millions in revenue during the delays.

The FBI’s Virtual Case File (VCF) System (2005):

Budget: Over $170 million

Final Cost: Over $600 million

The VCF system was intended to modernize the FBI’s case management, but it suffered from various technical problems and was eventually scrapped. The cost overrun was substantial, and the project didn’t deliver the expected capabilities. (2013):

Budget: Over $2 billion

The initial rollout of the website, part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), was plagued by technical issues and performance problems. While it wasn’t scrapped, it required extensive repairs and incurred significant costs to get it functioning properly.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) IT Failure (2012):

Cost: Over £175 million ($230 million)

RBS suffered a major IT failure in 2012 when a software upgrade went awry, causing widespread disruptions in customer accounts. The bank had to compensate customers, pay fines, and deal with the costs of repairing the system.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Accounting System (2005):

Budget: Estimated at $1 billion

The project aimed to modernize the accounting system for the Department of Defense but faced difficulties and delays. The costs escalated significantly, and it failed to deliver on its promises.

These examples highlight how IT project failures can result in substantial financial losses. In each case, the initial budget estimates were far exceeded, and the organizations involved had to bear the costs of fixing issues, compensating affected parties, or even starting over from scratch. It’s essential for businesses to learn from these examples and take measures to minimize the risk of IT project failures to avoid such costly outcomes.