The success of a project is often defined by meeting the budget, completing in the set time frame and whether it achieved it’s goals. If it doesn’t meet them, a project could be classed as a failure, this is one of project management’s toughest challenges. In a lot of cases this can be avoided and in this article I look at some of the most common reasons for failure in projects and what you can do to prevent it.

1) Insufficient planning
Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘Failing to plan means planning to fail’? Before diving into any project, there should always be a certain level of detail that goes into planning. If there is a distinct lack of it at the beginning, a Project Manager could find themselves quickly losing control. If people can’t agree in the way a project should be lead, it will certainly loose momentum. There can also be a struggle within your team. They might want to leave room for any issues whereas senior managers will want you to get the project completed in the shortest possible time.

2) Lack of visibility in projects
Issues are caused in projects where people give inaccurate reports and senior managers are unaware of what’s really happening. When running a project, everyone involved needs to have clear visibility of the current status. This includes Project Managers, Team Members and Executive Managers. This can be achieved by setting up a centralised location for all project information. This will provide full visibility of what everyone is doing and what needs to be completed next. There are a couple of ways that this can be achieved, the first is by using Microsoft SharePoint which can be used to push projects and corresponding documents to. The second is to use a PPM solution such as Microsoft Project Server which allows users to effectively manage all types of work ranging from simple tasks to complex projects and programs.

3) Lack of methodology or tool set  
So many organisations run their projects without having a formal methodology. Along with project tools and templates, a methodology provides a structure to the project life cycle that will clearly define all of your objectives and goals. This will allow you to manage and control the projects in a more effective way. Read our case studies with Ince & Co, an international commercial law firm and Home Retail Group, one of the UK’s leading home and general merchandise retailers to see how we worked with them to develop their methodology.

4) Unrealistic timescales
All Project Managers will at some point have spent hours tirelessly creating project schedules. Scheduling is actually one of the most important foundations of any successful project. This is where you define the time frame, milestones and key deliverables. Sometimes stakeholders will set unrealised time frames or goals to speed up delivery. As a Project Manager, you should be able to identify when these issues occur and act accordingly.

5) Poor communication
A lack of communication between Project Managers and Team Members has been pinpointed as one of the single biggest contributing factors to project failure. Team Members need to be aware of current project status. Project Managers are given responsibility to relay any information about the objectives, budget and report them at each stage of the project. There is no excuse for poor communication, not with so many options readily available, such as email, phone, meetings or Skype for Business.

6) Budget constraints
You need to have an overview of budget at all times. Budgeting should link back to the planning stage where formal baselines should be approved. If an unrealistic budget has been set, this could be the cause of your project being classed as a failure. You should schedule regular meetings at different stages of the project to review it and what you’re likely to need further down the line.

7) Insufficient resources
Lots of organisations suffer from a lack of resources, whether it’s from budget cuts, changes in the organisation or availability of team members. This in turn means resources will be spreading themselves over a number of different projects. This shortage can result in not meeting project goals or objectives. If you underestimate the number of resources needed at the beginning of the project, issues will arise. A project management tool such as Microsoft Project Online is a fantastic way to effectively manage resources.

Do you agree with this list or can you think of any other reasons? Have you been had your own experience of project failure, what were the causes?