Published on Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The most common causes of project failure (and how to avoid them)

Even if every project is in its essence unique, it can still fail due to some common causes it shares with other types of projects. Although a project failure is not something to be happy about, the fact that many of the fail as a result of the same mistakes is actually beneficial, as it helps managers to understand potential issues and be proactive in avoiding these problems. Here are the most common causes of project failure and tips on how to avoid them.

Unclear project goals

The vast majority of organizations have more project initiatives than they can hope to fulfill. Many of them still decide to embark upon more projects than they should, without adequately defined goals and strategies. Those should be known to everyone, starting from top management to project managers and team members.

Lack of prioritization causes project managers to extend deadlines or go above budgets, and team members often suffer from overworking. That's why it's key that executive management determines the organization's long term goals and the strategies for attaining those objectives. With clearly defined goals it's possible to properly assess project initiatives. If a project doesn’t fit the long or short terms goals, it should never be started. Executives should always consult project prioritization with managers – they're the ones fully aware of a project's risks.

Lack of strict project management discipline

Some project managers are great when it comes to planning, organization and task delegation. But sometimes they're unable to effectively conduct the project while it's being developed. They might have problems related to problem-solving, managing scope changes or project risks, and proactively communicating project goals to their teams. Every project requires a healthy dose of management discipline if it is to be completed successfully.

Project life-cycle issues

There are many occasions for project problems to spring up during project life-cycle. Many of them affect the progress of a project, leading to serious problems experienced at the level of project execution. Some of the most common project life-cycle problems include:

  • Lack of defined requirements leading to building wrong features and leaving gaps in those which are needed most;
  • Technology components which don't fit together as they should;
  • Use of new technology which causes unanticipated problems;
  • Poor technical design rendering the solution unscalable and difficult to modify;
  • Poor testing strategy which causes repeated errors and more work during later tests.

Inadequate resources

This is a serious problem that can rise due to many different factors. Managers deal with the issue of inadequate resources if they fail to estimate them correctly before the project begins. These resources might have been estimated correctly by team members but the management might have failed to provide and allocate proper staffing. Projects need the right mix of skills and qualification, and just because you've got many people in your team doesn't mean you won't suffer from the problem of inadequate resources.

Vague or incomplete project work-plan

Developing a project begins with establishing a project schedule. It's a kind of a roadmap showing how the team will complete the work and deliver the project. There are many things that can go wrong with a schedule. You'll face project failure if the plan is of a too high level, incomplete or simply not properly updated. These things might be of lesser importance to minor projects, but will grow to be fatal in larger ones.

Lack of access to information

Projects often fail because the executives, project managers and team member lack access to the right information at the right moment. Executives often complain that they lack visibility into all current projects and team members working on several projects at the same time might experience problems with task prioritization.

A solution to this problem is fostering project visibility by pulling together tools and processes that will ensure that everyone has access to information about project schedules and progress – a shared document or project management solution might do the trick.

It's safe to say that all project failures can be assessed within similar categories – managers who want their projects to be successful should determine and avoid the biggest risks to their projects.

About the author:

Monique Craig is a blogger and an employee at Oneflare, a reliable business directory from Australia. In her free time, Monique enjoys reading self-improvement books and learning more
about new technologies and strategies that allow businesses to grow and expand.

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