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Project manager

Why do projects fail? There are several key reasons all projects fail, though there is some overlap between categories, especially in IT. Let’s look at the reasons as to why IT projects often fail and how to prevent these problems in the first place.

Uncommitted sponsors

  • An uncommitted sponsor won’t back the project team’s requirements to change the process, buy new equipment or make workers change their patterns.
  • Uncommitted sponsors won’t assign the people or resources required to implement the project.
  • Uncommitted sponsors can take people on a project away to what they consider a higher priority than the project.
  • Sponsors who don’t support the project may assign the minimally qualified people instead of the best candidates for the task, making it harder to succeed.

Unrealistic expectations

  • When the project is promised as too good to be true, no one believes it will work. Then they do only the bare minimum to satisfy those on the project, while its odds of success go down.
  • The desire to get enthusiastic buy-in results in hype and excessive promises. The result even when a project is completed is that the modest gains are seen as a failure.
  • Unrealistic expectations not met in one project ensure no one will buy in next time.
  • Unrealistic expectations and the doubts these should engender tend to take up time and energy as those in charge of the project try to maintain the hopes and emotional investment of the team or stakeholders – wasting time and resources that could go into achieving something.
  • Consultants or newly minted graduates promising to solve all problems with a new methodology (really an old one with a new name) creates the risk that they’ll apply a supposedly universal technique to a problem it isn’t meant to solve because you unrealistically expect the all new method to work in every case.

Inexperience with the technology/process

  • Lack of experience with the technology leads to a steeper learning curve, which slows down or dooms projects.
  • Lack of experience with a methodology creates a greater risk of mistakes and delays, reducing its odds of success.
  • Inexperience with a technology or process increases the odds the implementation will not be done completely; corrective actions and failed roll-outs cause others to not trust the team or the methodology – or both.
  • Lack of experience with technology or processes means someone may try to apply a process that isn’t suited for the intent of the project.
  • A lack of experience with new methodologies coupled with the hype associated with them by those new to it who cheerlead it tends to result in requests to tackle the hardest projects to prove the point – when smaller ones would be more likely to succeed and safer to fail at.
  • One problem IT projects face is the assumption that the best programmer in the group is qualified to take over as a team lead. The person with the best technical skills does not always have the people skills and project management skills to actually manage a team. The lack of experience with management dooms many IT projects.

Lack of resources

  • The promise that a project can be done on the side leads to people trying to do their jobs and the project – and that the project will be second fiddle to the job they were hired to do.
  • A lack of time and money results in delayed implementations that hurt the odds of a project retaining the talent it needs to succeed.
  • Lack of experience or key expertise means project teams spend time researching solutions others know won’t work or trying to learn what is necessary to act. By the time the learning curve is done, they lack the funds or time to have good odds of success.
  • A lack of resources because others don’t trust it coupled with unrealistic expectations can mean the budget is used up on visioneering and communication meetings before you can actually do anything.
  • The lack of time or money because too much time is spent planning by those who don’t have experience results in hasty shifts to smaller scopes more prone to failure.
  • A lack of time and money can force teams to take on small projects that are smaller than the promised scope, hurting their image and the opinion of the methodology or technology.

How do you avoid these problems?

  • Hire an expert in IT project management, because IT schedules are much stricter than those in other business areas.
  • Use an IT project management lead to implement new technologies when your in house staff don’t have the time or talent to take on the task.
  • Only use those with experience with IT for project management roles, because a lack of understanding of the IT sector can lead to unrealistic expectations and lost time.
  • Hire IT consultants with experience in project management instead of project managers who have no experience with the technology. Experience with the technology ensures that they know the resources and skill sets required to get the project done on time and in budget.
  • Sponsors are more likely to support a project if an expert in getting IT projects done is put in charge.
  • Use an IT project manager with experience managing IT personnel to balance work assignments, schedules and resources so that the project is successfully completed instead of wasting time selling an idea at the expense of delivering it.