why do projects fail and how can we measure the success of a project
8 December 2018
8 December 2018,

Why is it that so many projects fail? According to one study, only 20% of projects meet schedule, budget, and quality goals. So, ‘why do projects fail?’ is a question because if we can learn from past project failures we can avoid making the same mistakes twice. And it’s always better to learn from someone else’s mistakes rather than our own!

The following set of actions can be the beginning of the project failure: misjudging the estimates, forgetting to ask a client key questions in kickoff meetings, being hesitant to say no, answering questions reactively before checking with my team. The following may seem silly, but the impact they are capable of having is not describable.

Not Communicating when things Get Difficult/ Lack of Communication and hesitant to ask questions:

It is a basic human instinct of avoiding the attention on ourselves when something’s gone wrong and no one noticed. It is not agreeable to the very nature of project management, but poor communication is so often the reason why projects fail.

On some occasions, the combination of a very difficult client and a budget or timeline about to be stretched tempts the Project Managers to avoid communicating the client of the status of their project. This is especially true when it’s been quiet and all-clear for the last few days or weeks on a project, because sometimes the PMs tend to feel the can control the situation before the project is formally closed. This is also the most vulnerable time in a project timeline—as it is extremely important to retain and foster the trust a client has in their project manager on any project, and that trust can easily blow into pieces.

So, whenever a Project Manager pauses before delivering difficult/bad news to a client, it is better to set their expectations now, rather than wanting to deal with this after it’s too late. That is how a Project Manager can be a Proactive leader.

Scope Creep due to Gold-plating: Gold Plating is also one of the reasons for why the projects fail. Gold-plating results from scope added by team members to make the happy i.e. by providing him/her with the functionalities or services that were not asked.

This usually results in extra work, higher costs than planned, delayed project delivery, wasted resources lot of stress to the Manager and at times a lot of embarrassment as well.

So, whenever you are following a process, stick to it without bothering to update or add things that were originally not a part of the Project.

In addition to the above, some major contributing factors for Project failure include:

  • Poorly defined project scope
  • Inadequate risk management
  • Failure to identify key Stakeholders
  • Project managers who lack experience and training
  • No use of formal methods and strategies
  • Lack of effective communication at all levels
  • Key staff leaving the project and/or company
  • Poor management of expectations
  • Ineffective leadership
  • Lack of detailed documentation
  • Failure to track requirements
  • Failure to track progress
  • Lack of detail in the project plans
  • Inaccurate time and effort estimates
  • Conflicts due to Cultural differences in global projects

Project failure can happen in any organization and to any project. There is an infinite number of reasons for failure. Sometimes it’s out of the control of a project manager and/or the team members, promised resources may not be available when required or executives may fail to grasp the full reasons behind initiating a project. Sometimes Project failure is controllable. Failed projects and people involved with the failure have some things in common. In both cases, they opt for “quick fixes” which typically prove to be ineffective and can sometimes produce disastrous side effects.

According to another study of experts, the most frequent causes of project failure are:

  • Mismatch between the project and organization’s strategic priorities.
  • No pre-agreed measures of project success.
  • Ill-defined senior management ownership and leadership.
  • Ineffective engagement with stakeholders.
  • Poor project management technical skills.
  • Non-standard approach to project management and risk management.
  • Inability to differentiate stages of project development and implementation.
  • Proposal evaluation focused on price rather than long-term value for money and achievement of business benefits.
  • Lack of contact with senior management levels in the organization.
  • Poor project team integration between clients, the supplier team and supply chain.

Of the ten reasons for failure raised above, only one is the result of insufficient technical knowledge. The rest relate to more fundamental issues within the organization. Some are cultural or structural, but all serve as indicators of low project management maturity at the organizational level.

How to Eliminate Project Failure?

The following list summarizes some of the major project management functions that are necessary to achieve success in projects:

  • Recruit and maintain adequate technical and non-technical resource skills
  • Manage the allocation of scarce resources
  • Define and collect operational metrics to support project and stakeholders decision making
  • Promote efficient and effective communications
  • Select and utilize technology related tools

Also, it is very important to retain the skills already available within an organization and developing existing and new talent through project management training. Professional project management courses in internationally recognized methodologies such as PMP Training can assist organizations in developing and retaining talented project managers.

Ways of Measuring Project Success

Measuring the success of a project once it is closed, is a valuable practice. It provides us with a learning opportunity for future undertakings, also gives us an opportunity to assess the true effectiveness of the project. The following can be used to measure Project success:

  1. Scope:This is the intended result of a project and what is required to bring it to completion. To get the real measure of the project’s success one should determine if it achieved its objectives within the given framework.
  2. Schedule:This is easy enough to measure and understand. Were you able to hit your milestones on time? Was the project got delivered on time? And if not, how far behind schedule was it?
  3. Budget:Was the project managed and delivered within budget? Was it over or under? And if so, by how much? I’m sure it comes as no surprise that your ability to deliver your project within budget is usually considered one of the greatest indicators of success.
  4. Team satisfaction:This is more subjective in nature and is often overlooked when evaluating project success. Team satisfaction should be at the top of measuring the success criteria because they are the ones who were deep in the trenches, and they’ll be the ones by your side on your next project adventure too. They usually have deeper insights that even the top stakeholders may not have.
  5. Customer satisfaction:Along with the team, it is also important to get the feedback from the clients. Are they content with the results? Were their needs met? Find a way to track client satisfaction through the project life cycle all the way to delivery.
  6. Quality:

    The point isn’t only to deliver the intended work but also, to exceed expectations. It’s important to track quality and make adjustments wherever necessary. At times, even after the project is delivered, quality assurance is often an ongoing piece of the project puzzle.

    Ultimately, you would want to evaluate if the project hit its target and how smooth the project delivery was. Project success isn’t all black and white, there are grey areas that are a little more difficult to measure but are definitely worth taking the time to evaluate. The more you can work out the kinks of each project, the more successful each subsequent project will be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *