Top 3 Reasons Projects Fail & What You Can Do About It

Posted by Marisa Jue on Dec 3, 2015 9:00:00 AM

Before getting started on that new project, pause for bit. At least two thirds of IT projects do not to live up to expectations. It's much more than simply running over budget. There are a few root problems that consistently arise in failed projects.

You see, it turns out that two thirds of all projects fail to meet original expectations. What are the biggest culprits?

Requirements phase problems:
86% of project participants in one survey said they have had major requirements phase problems, like:
Requiremnts are too vague.
Stakeholders are not on same page.
Requirements definition often gets short shrift.
Goals are too often overambitious  or unrealistic.
There might be a mismatch between requirements and decided solution or project goals.

Project scope creep:
67% surveyed believed that scope creep leads to failure. Scope creep is the problem of project teams adding, or being forced to add by others, more and more problems to be addressed by the project. As things pile on, the project gets bogged down and starts to fall short of accomplishing its original goals.

Project Team and Management problems:
Poor project managers.
Lack of senior executive support.
Chosen vendors are not fully qualified.
Specific task setting is poor.
Key technical skills are missing.

Below is a clever infographic that lays out project management like a game that shows the causes of project failure.

Top Causes of Project Failure

  1. Failure to Define Project Goals and Parameters It’s important to clearly and accurately define the requirements, goals and parameters of a project. Early on this might be to get the proper approvals. But really, this means taking the time to make sure the project proposal or brief responds to all of the project requirements. Making changes once the project is underway will complicate things by forcing you to work backwards and get additional approvals from project sponsors.
  2. Poor Communication – As the infographic below aptly shows, IT and applications projects are not a one-player game. Ensuring good communication between project team members will limit unnecessary errors, and keep management abreast of any issues as they arise so they can be addressed before they endanger the entire project.
  3. Poor Project Management – Although software and applications projects are a team effort, strong leadership can are often the key to success. A good project manager facilitates team communication and cooperation, keeps stockholders and partners in the loop, and manages project time and resources.


What are the Solutions?

Each of these solutions could have articles written about them, and we will in the future.

  • Better project management means making sure you have experience project managers running the team.
  • Be tougher on managing deadlines.
  • Limit project scope creep.
  • Add new skills where needed.
  • Know when to go back to the drawing board.
  • Vendor renegotiation.
  • Bring in third party to project manage.
  • Fire weak vendor/partners.

Here are Some Helpful Checklists:

Before you start your project make sure you have these things covered:

Requirements: Have a detailed requirements plan
Project Plan: Project assumptions and estimation methodology
Stakeholders:  Make sure you have Stakeholder buy-in and continued support methods
Project Management Methods: managing risks and issues, communicating and addressing them at key milestones
Project team staffing: what roles you need, resource availability and allocation to project.
Key Issue Escalation: there are always critical inflection points or issues that need special escalation through the team and stakeholders for resolution.

Additional In Battle Tools

At key junctures in the project, you might need to change your plan, how your resources are allocated, or even the mix of those resources:

  1. Analyze root causes of key problems and issues.
  2. You might need to conduct independent assessments of the project.
  3. Maybe you should take stock in lessons learned as you go forward (are there bad patterns you can change for the remainder of the project?)
  4. Perhaps you should recast budgets and goals (do you need to reallocate resources to other tasks, or to reorder tasks?)
  5. Do you need to change some members of the team to reach the goal line?
  6. Project progress reporting: make sure ongoing updates keep team members in the loop and prompt needed feedback to keep things on track

One solution is a set of tools that can track the deadlines, level of effort, and performance of your project team. Pacific Timesheet offers Project Timesheet Software that makes it easy to schedule projects and track project time, approvals, costs, billings, and profitability.


Graphic Source: MSM Software

Topics: Projects

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