Common Reasons Why Projects Fail and What to Do

Most organizations have experienced projects that did not end on time, were over budget, or changed in scope over time. There are many reasons why projects flat out fail.  I have compiled a list of four common reasons why projects fail and what to do to overcome them.

  1. Poor Planning –> Proper Planning

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, this is tried and true in many aspects of life, work and projects.  Projects require the proper planning in order to foster successful management and delivery of the project goals and objectives.  A poorly plan project will put your project at a huge risk of failing.

What to do: The key to proper planning is based on a clearly defined, agreed upon project scope translated into detailed agreed requirements.  Implement a plan based on well-defined requirements along with your team members’ input to ensure tasks are properly delegated assigned with agreed duration for each.  Set the expectations, build a schedule and manage accordingly to track progress and ensure work is getting done correctly and on time.

  1. Weak Scope ->Scope Management

As stated above, ensure that the scope is clearly defined and agreed with the customer.  When the scope is not clear, the plan is risky and the project is at stake which will include poor management and less than desired results.

What to do: The project manager must know what to deliver in order to deliver successfully.  Do the proper due diligence up front early in the project to ensure the scope and requirements are clearly defined and agreed upon.

Also, ensure that extra requests from the customer are carefully evaluated to determine if part of the scope or not.  If these additional requests are not part of the agreed scope, then let the customer know what the additional effort would cost (schedule and budget) or plan for to implement in a different release.  Either way, complete a high-level analysis of the additional requests, and then have a conversation with the customer about how to handle them.  Don’t just throw additional requests into your project schedule.  You will put the project at risk of delays and additional costs if the discussions are not had.

  1. Inadequate Resources – Cost Management

It is tough when you don’t have enough resources (people, money or equipment) for your project.  This creates a huge risk for the project to be delivered effectively.  When your project lacks the resources it requires, it can result in a failed project.

What to do:  Work with your team to establish resource requirements at the start of the project. Properly secure the resources you need based on the approved scope and requirements of the project (this goes back to project planning).  If you do fall short with resources in spite of planning (because things do happen), raise this as an issue with your project sponsor as soon as possible.

  1. Ignoring Risks -> Risk Management

Risk Management is important for all projects.  Proper risk management will enable you to mitigate key high impacting risks that could save your project extra costs, extreme delays or poor quality.  If you don’t stay on top of the risks of the project, you are more likely to face problems that could require more resources and time.

What to do:  Identify, assess and manage risks initially and throughout the project and discuss risks with your project team on a regular basis.  Also, ensure the leadership team is aware of the project risks. Keep them updated too.

Some things are out of the project manager’s control, but there are many things you can control within your project.  Remember to properly plan and effectively manage your scope, costs and risks of the project.  However, let’s not forget to keep track of everything else such as the schedule, communications, etc.  The keys to a successful project is properly planning and managing with effective communication.

PM Council