~ By Duncan Haughey
It's said that every project is unique; however, the underlying causes of project failure are usually the same. When you know what these causes are, you can minimise the chances of problems and increase your likelihood of success.
Projects go wrong for the same reasons all the time. There are no new sins. We can look at a project in its first two months and know if it will be a success or not.Nick Dean, Managing Director at Professional Values
What should you do when faced with poor initiation, weak control, lack of staffing, risks, issues and unrealistic expectations?
The following are five common problem areas and possible solutions.
Possibly the most common pitfall is failing to initiate a project properly by spending the time to gather and agree to customer requirements, create a good project plan and set customer expectations.
It's tempting to start work quickly, but a poor initiation stage often leads to problems and even failure.
Don't start the project until it has been properly initiated. Don't allow the customer to push you into starting work on the assumption that it will result in an earlier delivery. The reality is that a poor initiation extends projects by causing rework, errors and oversights. It's best to say no when pushed and never start the build phase too early.
If you don't manage a project effectively to its conclusion, it's pointless to do a thorough job of planning and initiating it in the first place. Typical problems from weak project control include scope creep, poor work-planning, lack of change control, poor communication and poor management of risks and issues.
To gain and maintain control of your project, you must take the following actions:
Not having the right number of people or having the right number with the wrong skill mix is often the cause of project failure. It's frustrating when your project lacks the right number of skilled people, which is all too common today.
Always insist that management provide you with people who have the right skills, whether they are internal or contract staff. Back up your request with a solid project plan that shows the areas where people are needed. Never keep quiet and struggle on as it's not fair to you or your team.
There are many occasions during the project life cycle when risks and issues may cause problems, even failures. Examples of these include:
Review a list of risks and issues at the start of every project. A good approach is to brainstorm possible risks and issues with your team or other project managers who have run similar projects. Continue to check risks and issues with your team throughout the project. Solutions for the aforementioned examples include:
Projects often start on a high with an enormous amount of optimism. During the project life cycle, expectations can inflate to a degree well beyond what is possible. When customers don't know what to expect or don't have progress visibility, frustration can set in and may break down your relationship with them.
It's a project manager's role to manage expectations to a sensible level. One way to do this is to break down projects into smaller chunks or phases with frequent milestones. Doing so will allow you to manage expectations by making regular deliveries so that customers see what they're getting. This approach ensures the project delivers to the customers' expectations by giving them early visibility of what you're building.
Unilog, the independent pan-European IT consultancy and services company, did research in April 2003 that found 100 percent of IT managers had experienced projects that failed to meet all of their objectives. They identified the following deadly sins that lead to project failure:
Although projects are unique in nature, the underlying causes of project failure are usually the same. Five of the most common problems are poor initiation, weak control, lack of staffing, not addressing risks and issues and unrealistic expectations. To increase your chances of success:
Don't become the casualty of a failed project. Always put measures in place that address the five key areas to help secure your project success. After all, it's not rocket science.