June 23, 2017 Last updated June 19th, 2017 1,707 Reads share

Why Projects Fail and 8 Things You can Do to Avoid Failed Projects

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A majority of projects fail. The number vary depending on who did the research, but the general consensus is that around 70% projects fail. To understand why projects fail we need to understand high performing projects.

So what makes a successful project. A successful project is where your planned objectives are met on time and within the budget. If any of those three conditions are not met then it’s a failed project.

So what do you do to make your project a success? There are many ways for you to go about it. But almost all successful projects have these 8 things in common. If you can manage to do these things there is a good chance your project will also be a grand success.

An Experienced Project Manager

Experience is a key factor in most fields and project management is no exception. I guess more you fail more you learn. In fact, more than 80% of successful projects are led by an experienced and certified project manager. This is probably the reason why there is such a high demand for certified project managers with experience.

Experience is not the only factor though. Other project members must trust the project manager and have a good working relationship with him or her. If the manager is not approachable and the members don’t trust the manager to deliver the things they want then that project is likely to be a disaster.

Effective Communication

Good communication comes in many forms. While hand gestures and facial expressions are important during an interaction, project communication is more about a good reporting structure and transparency. This is especially useful in large scale project where multiple departments and teams are involved.

This is one of the reasons agile methodologies and things like scrums are so popular. Every member of the team knows the status of the project and know what each other is working on. This opens up avenues to help each other and reduce bottlenecks and blockers.

Measurable Goals

When you start a project you have certain goals in mind. It’s important to make your goals measurable and it’s even more important to communicate these goals and how they are measured. When you have something measurable both you, your client and any other stakeholder of the project know exactly how to evaluate the final outcome of the project.

In a large-scale project, like an ERP solution, this is very hard to do. Requirements change during the project and many other mitigating factors will come into play. In such a case you should always reevaluate your goals, timeline and the budget.

A Sufficient Budget

Budgeting is an art mastered by few project managers. For a large project with many interdepending tasks, this becomes even harder. Project managers use SWOT analysis and PESTLE analysis etc before starting a project to figure out the various things that can affect the project and its budget.

Then they usually do a work breakdown to understand the enormity of the task. Once you break it down to small parts it becomes easier to evaluate and allocate a budget. It’s a long process which requires feedback from most members of the team, especially the leads of small teams.

Good Resource Allocation

A project requires different resources at different times. How to optimize the allocated resources and how to properly align those resources with other parallel projects is a skill mastered by few project managers. This where project management tools play a vital role. They enable managers to quickly visualize the resources allocated to them and their workload too.

A tool is only useful if everybody is committed to using it in the proper way. For example, if someone forgets to plan his work, forgets to allocate time for a task, forget to plan his leave then things become unmanageable. A good project manager should champion the use of tools and get everybody to use them in the correct way.

Although critical in large projects, even a small team can suffer from poor resource allocation. In a small team, a single resource like a web developer can be hard to manage because he usually has to cater to marketing needs as well as development needs.

Effective Risk Management

83% of high performing project frequently use risk management analysis. When you consider that around 70% project fail, you’ll realize why this is such an important aspect. This allows you to quickly identify things that can affect your project and provide a solution before the situation gets worse.

This allows you to quickly identify things that can affect your project and provide a solution before the situation gets worse. A proper risk analysis helps you to reduce costs and gives an opportunity to quickly alert your stakeholders of impending dangers.

Obviously, the most important aspect of risk management is identifying risks. This is where a living, breathing document like a PESTLE analysis comes in handy.

Successful Talent Management

With new technologies and methodologies introduced frequently, the project requirements also change rapidly. A good organization must be ready to face this through proper talent management. You might have to say no to some project because you don’t have the people with the right talent or even worse, you might accept a project only to find out later that you don’t have the resources with the right talent at your disposal.

With offshoring and remote working becoming popular finding the right talent isn’t the challenge. The real problem is managing these teams who work on different time zones and with different backgrounds. Which is why managing diverse teams is a plus point for any project manager.

Stakeholder Management

Probably the most important aspect of a successful project. Your success and the reputation of your organization depend on how the stakeholders view your project progress. Delivering the expected outcome on time and on a budget is obviously the most important thing and this where measurable goals become critical.

But how you manage them during the project is also important. Frequent updates of the project, immediately informing them of potential risks are few of the things you can do to ensure this.

How to Make Your Project Successful

Since only about 30% projects succeed we can safely assume that it’s a very hard job. This is why it’s important that you understand the characteristics of high performing projects and apply them to your projects. Ofcourse, you can’t guarantee a project success by doing the above 8 things, but you have a higher chance of making it a success.


The above infographic was created for Creately and the original version can be found at why projects succeed? 8 characteristics of high performing projects.

Nishadha Silva

Nishadha Silva

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