“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas A. Edison
“Success is not final, Failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts” – Winston Churchill
Aproject is deemed to have failed if it does not meet what it was set out to achieve initially. Projects fail not because they are destined to fail but they fail due to a variety of factors. Age-old beliefs and studies have suggested that a lot of projects embarked upon worldwide fail. The often referenced 2010 Standish Group Report indicated that only 37 percent of IT projects were successfully completed, 42 percent were seriously challenged and 21 percent either failed or were abandoned. Non-IT projects don’t fare better. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) – the world’s largest project management association – 2015 Pulse of the profession study, close to 64 percent of projects embarked upon worldwide are successful. Even with the best of plans and intent, projects do go awry if they are not properly executed, controlled and monitored. In an ideal world, projects should be on time, within scope and budget but this is rarely the case. A project’s success should be predicated and evaluated on these three main tripods on which effective project management stand. If a project falls short in any of these components then the project can be deemed not to have been successfully executed or to have failed. There are a lot of landmines that should be avoided in the execution of a project some of which are discussed below.
Project management plan
Poor or inadequate planning is a major mistake and a no-no in project management. A badly planned project always ends in disaster. Unplanned and shoddily-planned projects lead to major rework, unnecessary and costly errors, lots of overtime hours and this is bad project management practice. The project management plan is a set of plans and baselines which must be followed meticulously from the beginning of the project to the end. High-level planning for most projects should be done during the initiating process. Such high-level planning consists of establishing high-level Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), order of magnitude estimating and risk identification. This is followed by detailed planning after which the project charter has been signed. The detailed plans are also very essential to the successful completion of any project. It involves thinking and walking through the entire project and getting it organised in such a way that is clear and is understood by all the stakeholders involved. This is possible by developing a more granular Work Breakdown Structure. Management plans should be developed for each of the knowledge areas of project management, namely, integration, scope, cost, schedule, risk, quality, communications, human resources, stakeholder and procurement.
An ill-defined, ambiguous and gold-plated scope for a project can and will ultimately lead to unwanted outcomes. Also scope creep (incremental expansion of work to be done), poor requirements gathering and data collection techniques can lead to project failure. Bad scope management not only prolongs the life of the project, it also increases the cost.
A well thought-out and conceived scope management plan is needed to avoid project failures. The scope must be well defined and formally approved and should only encompass the work required and nothing more. In the event that the scope must change, the changes have to go through the change management process and approved before it can be implemented. Managing the project scope efficiently is one of the most critical aspects of project management.
According to the PMI PMBOK 5th edition, Project Integration management is the processes and activities needed to integrate the various elements of project management, which are identified, defined, combined, unified and coordinated within project management process groups. With project integration management all the components of a complex project plan work together. These activities and processes are crucial to project completion, meeting requirements and stakeholders’ expectations. This is the primary role of the project manager. Very well-integrated projects have higher chances of success.
Proactive risk management
As with most endeavours in life there are a lot of risks involved. Risk management is very essential and fundamental to all that we do in life. Projects are no different. A risk is an event identified in advance that may occur or not occur. One of the main reasons why a lot of projects fail is inadequate risk assessment and management. Numerous doomed projects do not have risks (negative and positive) that are proactively identified, analysed and solutions proffered. For a lot of projects, anticipated and unforeseen risks are allowed to degenerate into legitimate threats leading to project failures. Sources of risks can be the cost, quality, schedule, scope, project team members, natural disasters and stakeholders. To effectively deal with risks during project execution, proactive risk management has to be effectively addressed. This helps prevent a lot of problems on projects and make other major negative issues less likely and less destructive. This is also true for opportunities and positive risks.