As cited by Gartner, project failure rates are not improving based on a combined set of anecdotal and survey data, it seems that people believe projects are continuing to fall short of their goals:

  • 82% of employees within companies with significant organization wide projects under way believe those projects will fail
  • 78% believe they are working on a "doomed" project
  • 90% knew early on that the project would likely fall short of the objectives
  • 81% believe it is impossible to approach the failing project's key decision-maker

And they are usually right…. Why?

Poor Planning– Most organizations fail to recognize the importance of spending the necessary time up front to plan appropriately and clearly define project objectives and expectations. There is such an urgency to deliver or implement a solution to gain business value that planning out the "how" is becoming a costly oversight that creates churn and administrative challenges. Effective planning minimizes downstream scope creep.

Poorly Defined / Missed Requirements – A set of requirements need to define not only how a technology will function, but also how the business will interact with the technology. Far too often project teams are focused on all the bells and whistles that a new technology can bring to the organization, but fail to marry the technology with business processes. A shiny new system is great, but an end-to-end solution yields value. The quality of a project is measured by the team's ability to meet the expectations of all stakeholders including the end users. If you don't get the business requirements right, however well you deliver the project, the client/business will be dissatisfied.

Poor User Involvement– Not having the end users or the "right" end users involved throughout the project can cripple the chances of success. Users are the front line of every project. They understand the details of organizational processes and the daily business transactions required. It is the responsibility of senior management and project sponsorship to ensure a project team has the appropriate mix of subject matter experts from the business with the skill set necessary to complete the required tasks. Testing or training activities cannot be the first time users see the proposed solution. Involvement late in the game leads to rework and rework can be costly as well as cause delays in delivery. Users need to be committed to the project and have the support from management to make it a priority.

Poor Change Management / Communication– While it is important to have mechanisms in place to track project changes that impact scope, development activities, and impacts to the delivery timeline, don't forget about impacts to the business. Communicating to the business throughout the project is important for user acceptance. It is also important to understand your audience so that you can speak to their needs. A confused or unmotivated group within an organization can create hurdles for a project team.

On time, on budget, and compliance with processes are important to every project, but they are just the hygiene and don't provide value. A successful project is judged on product, use, and value. Did I meet the requirements of the client? Has the organization adopted and using the product? How much efficiency / effectiveness has the organization gained as a result of the product?

In closing, improve your next project success rate by avoiding the above key project management traps.