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The Next Step of IT Project Research in Practice: The CHAOS University System

4 July 2016 onderwijzen

The Next Step of IT Project Research in Practice: The CHAOS University System

Prof. dr. ing Hans MULDER, University of Antwerp Management School Antwerp, Belgium


Jim JOHNSON, Chairman and founder of the Standish Group International Inc. Boston, Massachusetts, USA



The Standish Group has been formally researching the causes of software project success and failure since 1994 [1]. Prior to this date very little research was done and the problems of software project failure were hidden due to lack of transparency.1 Standish’s cumulative research encompasses 22 years of data on why projects succeed or fail, representing more than 50,000 active completed IT projects and more than 60,000 inactive completed projects stored in a database. Currently, the crisis in IT projects continues. Governments, industry, and parliaments in North America and Europe seek answers regarding why IT projects add little or no value for society, organizations, and individuals. Standish’s research is used more than ever before, recently in the hearings of the Dutch Parliament [2, 3]. This paper focusses on a novel application in Education and Research.

Keywords: Information Technology projects, research of success, failure and value factors, education and research.


Through the CHAOS University program, The Standish Group has hosted almost 500 workshops, as well as focus groups, project “group therapy” sessions, and executive retreats around the globe that focus on particular issues of project management. Major changes in the way software projects were accomplished resulted directly from the findings in this research [5]. Some of these changes improved project performance, while others have acerbated the problem. Therefore, the overall results show very little improvement for the last 22 years. There is both much current debate and new areas of discovery to which the CHAOS Database offers clues. These debates and discoveries include the future role of the project manager, do sophisticated tools help or hurt, how to create a good project culture, is Scrum the holy grail, and what does it take to be a good project executive sponsor?

During the last 22 years The Standish Group held the data private and no outside access was permitted. Eveleens and Verhoef stated in [6] The Rise and Fall of the CHAOS Report Figures: "The numbers even found their way to a report for the President of the United States to substantiate the claim that US software products and processes are inadequate. [5] However, we question the validity of their figures and hope that Standish will adopt our proposed definitions and methods for the rise and resurrection of their reports.” Robert Glass [7,8] and Magne Jørgensen and his colleagues [4] indicated that the only way to assess the CHAOS results’ credibility is to use Standish’s data and reiterate their analyses. Nicholas Zvegintzov places low reliability on information where researchers keep the actual data and data sources hidden. He argued that Standish should explain, for instance, how it chose the organizations it surveyed, what survey questions it asked, or how many good responses it received [9]. At the other side, a growing number of dissertations and statistical industry research supports the Standish findings on SUFFI: success and failure factors in IT projects [10].

3. INTRODUCTION OF THE CHAOS UNIVERSITY SYSTEM However on March 8, 2016, at the Antwerp Management School, The Standish Group presented a view into the working of the CHAOS Database. The purpose and outcome of the presentation was that The Standish Group and Antwerp Management School (AMS) created a non-profit organization known as the CHAOS University System (CUS) consortium. CUS will develop a Doctoral and graduate and master’ s educational program around the updating and extending of the world-renowned CHAOS Database. The university will have access to the CHAOS Database for research and teaching purposes as a charter school member of the CUS working group. 


The complete paper is published by the International Institute of Informatics and Systemics, at the 10th Multi-Conference of the International Institute of Informatics and Systemics (IIIS,, July 5 - 8, 2016 – Orlando, USA.

"The software industry’s inability to provide accurate estimates of development cost, effort, and/or time is well known. This inability is described in reports from project management consultancy companies, case studies on project failures, articles in the computer press, and estimation surveys. The common belief seems to be that the cost overruns are very large, and we have experienced that few software professionals and researchers react with disbelief when being presented with the inaccuracy figures reported in Standish Group’s Chaos Report [1], i.e., an average cost overrun of 89%. There may be several reasons for this attitude.” [4]



[1] CHAOS, tech. report, Standish Group Int’l, 1994.

[2] J.B.F. Mulder and I. Kontakos,
Rethinking the Public Spending on ict projects, Standish, 2015.

https://www.houseofrepresentatives.n l/news/committee-presents-report- failures-government-ict-projects, 2014.

[4] M. Jørgensen and K. Moløkken, “How Large Are Software Cost Overruns? A Review of the 1994 Chaos Report,” Information and Software Technology, vol. 48, no. 8, 2006, pp. 297–301.

[5] B. Joy and K. Kennedy, Information Technology Research: Investing in Our Future, tech. report, President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, Feb. 1999.

[6] Eveleens, V erhoef, "The Rise and Fall of the Chaos Report Figures” 2010.

[7] R. Glass, “
IT Failure Rates—70% or 10–15%”, IEEE Software, May 2005, pp. 110–112.

[8] R. Glass, “The Standish Report: Does It Really Describe a Software Crisis?Comm. ACM, vol. 49, no. 8, 2006, pp. 15–16.

[9] N. Zvegintzov, “Frequently Begged Questions and How to Answer Them”, IEEE Software, vol. 20, no. 2, 1998, pp. 93–96.

[10] A.J. Van Dijk et al, SUFFI: success and failure factors in ICT projects with Dutch case studies as examples, Int. J. Project Organisation and Management, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2013. 

The Next Step of IT Project Research in Practice: The CHAOS University System


Venture Informatisering Adviesgroep NV, kortweg VIAgroep is gevestigd in Den Haag en ingeschreven in het handelsregister Haaglanden onder nummer 164.764.

Hans Mulder in 60 seconden.

Hans Mulder in 60 seconden.

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