Lessons From a Decade of IT Failures

The takeaways from tracking the big IT debacles of the last 10 years

photo of sad laptop computer
Photo: Getty Images

Ten years ago, IEEE Spectrum published “Why Software Fails,” an article that examined the underlying causes of notable project failures. A couple of years later, we started the Risk Factor blog, with the goal of tracking technology failures both large and small.

To commemorate the last decade’s worth of failures, we organized and analyzed the data we’ve collected. We cannot claim—nor can anyone, really—to have a definitive, comprehensive database of debacles. Instead, from the incidents we have chronicled, we handpicked the most interesting and illustrative examples of big IT systems and projects gone awry and created the five interactives featured here. Each reveals different emerging patterns and lessons. Dive in to see what we’ve found. One big takeaway: While it’s impossible to say whether IT failures are more frequent now than in the past, it does seem that the aggregate consequences are worse.