How to avoid project failure?

By Steward Copper*, Guest Writer The statistics of failed projects impresses. It may seem that having so many projects failed, people sho...

By Steward Copper*, Guest Writer

The statistics of failed projects impresses. It may seem that having so many projects failed, people should have learnt something. But from project to project mistakes are repeated. The main reason is misunderstanding the basics of project management and absence of the database of learned lessons. All projects are unique but the mistakes leading to their failure are, as a rule, the same.

Bad initialization

As a rule, the root of many problems of the project failure lies in bad initialization or its absence.

It’s necessary to take maximum efforts and not allow the project to be started before passing all the processes necessary during the process of initiation. You can say: the sooner you start, the sooner you will get a result. You won’t! Without the correct initiation, nothing is possible to achieve, apart from delays, broken deadlines, overtimes, and bugs since little information on the project has been provided. And if the project manages to survive all these problems, the result is likely to be dissatisfying for everybody.

Choosing the project manager, a person who will manage a project from the first days, is the first step in the project. Starting with the moment of the initial concept and requirement formation, it’s necessary to document, interpret and include into the project everything that can come useful during the project development process. The project manager should be the center of the project and a competent source of information on the project, that’s why his participation at the earliest stages of the project is essential.

Initiation is one of the main stages of project management. It should be kept in mind that project management starts not with planning but with initiation.

Necessary steps during the project initiation:

  • Choose the project leader
  • Understand the company’s organizational structure
  • Gather the information on the existing processes, procedures and historical information about previous projects
  • Divide a big project into stages
  • Understand business requirement
  • Define initial requirement and risks
  • Define measurable aims
  • Prepare the project charter
  • Define the involved parties
  • Develop the working strategy with the involved parties

Inadequate estimation and resource planning

The common approach ‘We’ll start the project and then find the resources’ leads to the project failure. One has to think over and plan which resources will be available for the project execution; whether the company can afford the necessary specialists; whether these specialists are free for the planned period.

Planning resources should be done carefully considering employees’ real working load – don't hope that a person will be able to perform his tasks on several projects simultaneously. Take into account holidays, days-off, individual performance characteristics, etc. Make allowance for some risks, such as bad qualification, leaving the project, dismissal, force-majeure, etc.

Ask from the management to provide the necessary resources relying on the real plans. Hire the staff for the whole period of the project development.

Bad project management

Initiating and planning a project is not enough, any project needs well-organized daily project management. Thus, choosing the right project and task management software (Basecamp, JIRA, Comindware, Redmine, etc.) is essential. The typical problems are bad communication, an ill-defined working plan, uncontrolled changes, unsolved problems and questions raised by the team members.

Communicate with the sponsors of the project regularly. Keep all the involved parties informed on the course of the project. Work out an adequate and, which is more important, working communication plan and define clearly who, when and which information should get and follow this plan carefully. Update your plan regularly.

Inform and train your project team how to use the system of change management. No change in the project should pass outside the controlled process.

Risk management

A project is always a risky business and neglecting risk management can cost money to the company. The company should learn how to manage risks and work with them.

Unfortunately, most companies treat risks as something unpleasant and don’t try to manage them. Try to manage risks. Start with their identification and categorization and then in future develop the skills of working with risks in the team. It is worth it.

Many factors can result in a project failure but trying to avoid at least the above mentioned mistakes can significantly increase your probability of success. Don’t repeat someone else's mistake. Have many successful projects ahead!

*ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steward Copper is the owner of Project Management Insights. While working as a project coordinator and BA, he tried almost all possible PM tools, BA instruments, collaboration programs, including tracker and task management software solutions. He uses Comindware Tracker for his project management processes.

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Chiprang-Blogging, Technology and Lifestyle Blog: How to avoid project failure?
How to avoid project failure?
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http://www.chiprang.com/2012/07/how-to-avoid-project-failure.html
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