Reasons for Project Failure

Every project is undertaken with an aim to succeed. Necessary steps are taken to ensure that effective project management tools are given priority, the project is guided well into its success, and that it has a smooth journey from the beginning till its end. However, at times, the project plan can find its way through some cracks and begin its downward journey towards failure. Projects are considered as failures when they do not deliver what’s required and are not in sync with the expectations of team members, management and clients alike. Instead of delivering on time, to quality, and as per budgetary restraints, they do not showcase the benefits that are presented in their business cases.

Let us see some reasons why a project fails, so that the mistakes behind the same can be avoided.

Reasons for Project Failure

There are several reasons for a project to fail. While some may seem trivial in nature, their effects are liable to inflict irreparable damages that cause the bottom line figures to slide.

Addressing of Wrong Business Requirements- If a project has been set up for delivering the "wrong thing," then it’s likely to fail even if it is within budget, delivered on time, and meets the required quality metrics. Such projects make the task of changing deadlines, expectations, and budgets more difficult. Therefore, a through analysis of business requirement is essential at the initiation phase to avoid future complications.

Poor Planning– Planning is the first and foremost step in approaching any project and it holds a pivotal role in its success. This step includes a clear definition of goals at the beginning of the project and can be considered as the foundation for the rest of the journey. Undoubtedly, if the foundation isn’t stable, everything built upon it will eventually fall. The same goes for projects. Planning helps in breaking down the project into smaller tasks that can be done efficiently, the results of which convert into success.

Inefficient Implementation - Project deliveries are complicated in nature and require effective management of issues, scope, team management techniques and communications with stakeholders. They also encompass redesigning of products, implementation of new systems, and timely consultation with customers. Failures usually come in the line of projects that have poor training packs, implementation plans, maps for the implementation of regular/ new processes, and a clear insight into benefit requirements.

Environment Changes- Any unprecedented changes in business needs can lead to the business case becoming outdated before a project has been completed. This is particularly true in case of projects linked to dynamic environments that require timely decisions for revision of requirements; effective assessments of the scope, nature and delivery timelines; and management of key project stakeholders in strategic decision-making processes.

Setting of unrealistic expectations or the inability to manage them– Before the initiation of a project, it is important that all team members are on the same page; especially when it comes to having realistic expectations from its outcomes. Proper and in-depth awareness of responsibilities is a must and it is important to streamline all processes in a manner that the right people are assigned to perform tasks on the basis of their skills and performance metrics. Failure to manage expectations leads to further complications, decreased productivity, and a fall in the overall profitability quotient.

Inefficient tracking of progress– The entire project should be tracked using effective performance measurement scales, applications for time management, feedback systems, and so forth. Proper tracking helps a manager understand how the project is progressing, the problems that are being faced on a day-to-day basis, an analysis of factors affecting the deadline, and so forth. In most cases, failed projects can be attributed to laxity in the tracking system, non-timely detection of errors, a procrastinated approach towards rectifying the problems on hand and inaccuracy in managing as well as dealing with timelines, stocking of crucial resources and delivery schedules.

Communication Gap between team-members– A transparent channel of communication has to be maintained at all times amongst all team-members, right up to the senior management level. The inability to opt for a central medium that is accessible to all team-members leads to poor communication channels and broadening of gaps with respect to planning, implementation of processes, tracking of project modules and interactions between team members alike.

Disregarding early warning signs– In general, when projects are liable to meet with some kind of failure, early signs are usually in place to indicate the same. Keeping an eye out for such warning signals is a must. Along with identifying them immediately, it becomes crucial to take all necessary measures for addressing and solving the issues that may lead to backlogs, failures in meeting deadlines, poor product/ service deliveries or any other kind of complications that may lead to the project meeting a deadlock. Disregarding such warning signs will lead to nothing but the failure of the project.

Way Forward

For projects to be successful, it is simply not enough to handle them competently or deliver good quality products. The correct identification of all business requirements, creation of an achievable business case, strong focus on benefits, management of high-quality implementation, effective monitoring of the changes in the project environment, tracking of cost overruns, meeting of the expectations of stakeholders and so forth, can lead to the proper launching of a project, and without any fundamental errors.


Author : Uma Daga

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Uma Daga