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Six Reasons Projects Fail

1. Poor Planning

  • Lack of Direction: If you are a project manager, someone else’s poor planning can become your problem. It’s not uncommon for vague proposals to be pitched and sold. This failure to define expectations, milestones and desired outcomes often leads to ‘scope-creep.’
  • Poor Statement of Work (SOW): Definitions enable the ability to effectively scope and manage projects. Set standards around SOW development. A good SOW should be the high-level outline for the project plan. IT should include a timeline, definition of success, and milestones. 
  • Failure to Review: It is important for both sides to review the SOW before sign-off, and then to have a kick-off meeting. Your team must review the SOW and define all key players and milestones. Use the kick-off meeting to set recurring checkpoints to review project progress.
  • No Work Plan: A detailed work-plan should be constructed as soon as the SOW is signed, listing each action needed to complete the project, and assigning action owners and deadlines. There are many (free) tools available for doing this (e.g. Asana, Podio, etc.)
2. No Project Sponsorship
  • Sponsorship: Every project must have sponsorship at both the client and the service provider level. These individuals provide the vision of the project to their respective teams.
  • Gatekeeper: A gateway and approval system ensures messages aren’t dispersed at random to whoever is available. A main point of contact on both sides should be established early, and should be included in all project requests and communications.
  • Approver: It’s vital to determine if points of contact are final approvers or not. If not, the approver on both sides should be identified so that requests for approval flow upward to them.
3. Mismanaged Budget
  • Money: The SOW should have a predefined margin built into it. Assess the metrics used to build the quotation price, and fact-check it to ensure it is as accurate as possible. Monitoring and tracking the budget is as important as monitoring resources and milestones.
  • Time: If FTE hours are in excess of budget, projects will come in at a loss. Make adjustments elsewhere to accommodate unforeseen hours. Make accommodations for a loss of resources and their consequent effect on deadlines.
4. Inadequate Resource Planning
Overbooking: Booking resources back-to-back leads to poor customer service and employee morale. Never double-book, but instead move meetings around if needed.
Assigning Underqualified Employees: What skills are required to complete the task? If employees within the company lack certain skills, look outside the company for third-party services you can white-label as your own. 
5. Overpromising and Underdelivering
  • Over: Do not promise anything that you are not 100% certain you can deliver.
  • Under: Communicate regularly with the customer and always set reasonable and completely achievable expectations
6. Scope Creep
  • Chart a course: Scope creep can come from many sources – poorly defined SOW, unauthorized personnel requesting changes, authorized approver asking for more than what was agreed. It’s to the customer’s advantage to “strong-arm” the service provider into doing more than what was requested. A clearly defined SOW restricts scope-creep. Additional requests should be handled by a change-request authorization at an additional cost.


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