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Potential Reasons – Why Do Project Fail and How Project Managers Can Prevent?

The principle aim of this article is to identify and explore multiple dimensions of project failures during the entire life of project execution. Many projects fail, especially IT projects. The only way that companies can get better at performing projects is by learning from projects they have carried out. There are small things which can decide fate of project. These all in project management practice and research, has been to see it as a threat and as something that should, if possible, be neutralized, reduced and followed.

Introduction

In a perfect world every project would be “on time and within budget.” But reality (especially the proven statistics) tells a very different story. It’s not uncommon for projects to fail. Even if the budget and schedule are met, one must ask –

Question – “Did the project deliver the results and quality we expected?

Answer to this question could be different in different perspective. There is no single method or organizational structure that can be used to manage projects to success. Project failure can happen in any organization and to any project.

There are many reasons why projects (both simple and complex) fail; the number of reasons can be infinite and can fit into different phase of SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle), initiation through go live. Sometimes it’s out of the control of a project manager and/or the team members. Sometimes failure is controllable. Failed projects and people involved with the failure have some things in common. I have tried to draft few critical and most basic reasons based on my experience for project failure and may differ project to project.

From outside view, it could be that all reason will roll up to project manager’s responsibility and accountability however from my perspective it should be collective responsibility.

Here are the some of the common reasons why project fails – based on my experience.

1. Incompetent Project Manager

First possible cause of project failure is the project manager. A project manager who helps steer the project in a timely fashion and provides sound, inspiring leadership can go a long way toward bringing about a successful project. Reasons like “an incompetent project manager” “project manager unwilling to make decisions,” “project problems ignored”, “poor management by the project leader,” “loss of control by the project manager,” and “the failure of the project manager to delegate”, “working as only as coordinator” are most important reason given for project failure.

2. Less Involvement of Project Managers

This is always a topic of debate for project managers: Should they just focus on pure project management activities such as reporting, cost and issue tracking, or should they also dive into ground-level review and design? There is no correct answer. Even the biggest project depends on the success of the smallest components. Every detail contains a seed that can mean the difference between success and failure. On relatively inexperienced teams, project managers must be involved in the details for key activities. This will help them have better control of the effort as well as provide true status of the project to stakeholders.

3. Unavailability to Skilled Resources

Every project has some resource estimations before starting of the project and even every vendor submits key personnel details and profile as part of bidding process to acquire project. However picture is always opposite once project is awarded. Initial resource estimations and loading sheet handed over to project managers as part of sales hand over process but I have seen that project managers always struggle for right skilled resources hence it is necessary that leadership team should understand criticality and provide planned/skilled resources on time to avoid project delay or failure.

4. Lack of Proper Planning

Project managers should have clear projects outcomes visibility and should involve himself./herself right from sales hand over as this phase is critical for project success. If you don’t have a clear focus at the earliest stage of the process/project, you are making things harder on yourself. This would lead to inappropriate estimations and half cooked planning.

5. Lack of Management Support/Leadership Alignment

It is important to ensure that the senior management remains fully engaged throughout the project life cycle. The involvement e.g. through project update sessions imply that they are willing to take appropriate actions to address issues raised by the project team, mitigate the project risks, provide leadership, thus contributing to the project success.

6. Missing Communication

Communication plan plays very substantial role in project success or failure. Plan should contain stakeholder details I.e name, role, contact no. and email, project team details, escalation matrix and other dependent groups. Information distribution details (stakeholder, information detail, distribution methods, format and frequency) should be clearly defined in plan. To save your project from failure, project manager need to establish a clear communication channel.

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