One of the most damaging consequence resulting from this painful episode was the psychological impact on managers regarding future IS development. As reported by Cochran, some of the managers were positively terrorized at the idea of launching large innovative IS projects. "Because, when word passed that the BLISS project was a failure and heads began rolling (even if done discreetly), what was the motivation for a senior manager to venture into a project with a high technological risk? They shut their eyes and put ‘X’ on it. They said: ‘I would rather find another solution’, which of course was not in the best long-term interests of Integra". Eventually, Integra would have to find an acceptable conclusion for this situation and regain confidence in its capability to integrate in an efficient manner promising IT tools to its strategic business plans. On the positive side, the incident prompted the formation of a task committee headed by Cochran, whose objective was the reassessment of the decision process for systems procurement at Integra. As explained by Cochran, the procurement process was found to be ill defined and failed to assign clear responsibilities.
"How were we trapped in this mess in the first place and why did it catch everyone off-guard? I would say that... the pain is still rather fresh and we pay a little more attention. However, I am not convinced that the lessons are anchored in our [procurement] processes. As long as those who suffered do not make the same errors twice... But eventually, there will be a rotation of managers. For those who will take over and who will not have lived through BLISS, there are no guarantees that they will not repeat the same errors. We do have to find a mechanism to anchor these lessons in our decision processes."
Thus, in the early months of 1997, Integra's management was assessing the situation and trying to find an appropriate course of action.
Jim Cochran, V.P. for Product Development, was still trying to figure out a way to gain access to the Canadian market. He was convinced that Integra's loan insurance product was better than the competition's, that the system supporting it was sound and reliable, and that somehow, there had to be a way to overcome the obstacles at hand. How could the millions of dollars that had already been spent on the project be salvaged?
Michael Bricino, the CIO, had a different preoccupation. For him, the IT department had to learn from this experience. What had gone wrong? He had recently read about failed software projects (Glass, 1997; Lyytinen & Hirschheim, 1987) and he was wondering where his project would fit. The system was technically adequate, but somehow it failed to respond to the intended users' goals. The lessons from this project had to be drawn so that the mistakes would not be repeated. It would be too costly for the firm, and much too damaging for the reputation of the IT organization. Meanwhile, he had the disagreeable feeling that his career at Integra was somewhat compromised.
On the other side of the building, the First VP Finance was tapping her fingers on her desk. Clearly, a significant risk had been taken and the company had miscalculated the odds. On the one hand, she felt the need to provide better risk assessment for IT projects to prevent the firm from entering into such costly misadventures. On the other hand, she was worried about the potential damaging effect of the project on the managers' attitude toward risk. If the outcome was that managers, in the future, would avoid all risky projects, the company would indubitably suffer. In her opinion, appropriate risk management did not mean systematic risk avoidance.
For his part, the CEO of the organization was perplexed. Clearly, this was a major dead-end for such a key and promising project. As chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the company, he was accountable for the project to the board of directors and to the shareholders. Mr. Lapierre was trying to analyze the unfolding of the project and realized it was very difficult to assign clear responsibility for the outcome. Most players had followed rational routes. He also felt that the confidence of his management team had been bruised and that morale was severely lowered. What should be the next steps?