Myth #1: Digital Transformation Projects Are Hard To Get Right – Part #4 (Lesson 4)
The key causes of project failure
All successful projects must address the following simple key themes:
- The need for effective planning.
- The necessity for clear and open communication.
- The requirement to pull together essential resources and people.
There is no shortage of statistics, reports, articles, books, and opinions that explain why projects fail. But whichever way we look at this, none of the main causes of failure are insurmountable.
So, we have to ask ourselves: why don’t more projects simply do the obvious and avoid the same problems? Looking at each of the following example failure points, how difficult is it to mitigate against each one?
|Point of failure||Action to mitigate against failure|
|Business case||Invest time in working out the cost/benefit analysis for the project to ensure that the investment is justified.|
|Objectives||Spend time working out what the project needs to achieve to ensure objectives are properly defined and agreed.|
|Outcomes/benefits||Set measures against the desired outcomes and benefits to ensure these are also properly defined.|
|Governance||Ensure that proper governance is put in place, that everyone understands and accepts their role, and that the appropriate people are empowered to make decisions in a timely manner.|
|Estimation||Validate estimates better, and ensure better handling of cost variances.|
|Planning/coordination||Invest adequate effort in planning, maintaining, and coordinating the project, resources, and timeline.|
|Quality||Put adequate quality reviews and controls into place.|
|Communication/stakeholder management||Talk more to stakeholders, end-users, and other interested parties to ensure adequate communication throughout the project life cycle.|
Apparently, however, many project managers cannot perform these basic tasks. Many sponsors and stakeholders seem averse to ensuring that they are done as well.
So, what is happening? Why is it that so many projects can fail for the very same – on the face of it, easily preventable – reasons?
The evidence points to these (and many other) challenges being significant factors in determining project success. However, it is my belief that these challenges are merely basic hygiene factors that – for more challenging projects – can only ever contribute to project success.
In other words, they do not determine project success.
Planning projects that deliver Guaranteed Project OutcomesTM
The real, defining project success factors are far more elusive – and, perhaps, less tangible. They include the almost mystical project elements of leadership, trust, partnership, purpose, belief, vision, and making the impossible possible.
This email series explores these less tangible project elements, and dispels some of the prevailing myths that help to contribute to many project failures.
A classic mistake that many projects make in the planning phase is trying to do too much, too soon, with too little knowledge or experience. In effect, this involves planning to incorporate ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ into a project.
Stop doing this! You are making it easy to fail, when you should be focusing on making it easy to succeed instead.
In a client-supplier project relationship, each and every project starts a unique set of interactions that should result in success. All too often, however, it does not.
A client may have selected a supplier based on their credentials for successfully doing this kind of work for many other clients. Yet, this time, on this particular project, it all goes horribly wrong. Why is that?
Meanwhile, if they think that projects are hard to get right, is it any wonder that many baulk when they are confronted with seemingly impossible ‘Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals’?
Personally, I relish a challenge. Perhaps that is why I often find that clients hire me to take on projects that they struggle to see being successful, or that have already spun out of control and need recovering or rescuing.
I believe that projects are easy to get right if you try
For me, success and quality go hand-in-hand. Both need to be baked into a project from the beginning; or at least from the stage I become involved. What I mean by this is that the planned project approach must deliver clear, unambiguous, and demonstrable results at and between key project milestones.
Then, at every stage, the planned approach should automatically bake further clarity and quality into the deliverables.
If this does not happen, you have no guarantee of success.