Why Do IT Projects Fail?

No one likes to think about the potential failure of a costly project, but without attention to what can go wrong, your team can’t know the potential hazards that could sink their work. By looking more closely at the phases of project management and paying attention to the most common reasons others’ projects have fallen short of the mark, you reduce your own risk of failure considerably.

Initial Failure to Launch

Some projects fail at the outset because the IT directors in charge of them haven’t gone through the necessary steps to define the resources the product will consume. Doing your homework before the project even begins will help you avoid many of the problems that can plague your team long before they reach the finish line.

Time, cost, and scope form the boundaries around every project. To succeed, each of these three elements must be balanced against the others. If time is short, cost must increase and scope must narrow to compensate. If the project’s scope is large, time and cost must expand to match it. With that in mind, think about the five steps your project moves through and define how each of these three elements affects it:

  • Initiation: What is the ultimate goal of the project? This will help define its scope.
  • Planning: How do you get there? Defining cost and time limitations happens here.
  • Execution: Beware scope creep, time lags, and cost overruns during the execution phase.
  • Assessment: QA/QC processes are essential, but they’re often overlooked or underestimated as drivers of cost and time.
  • Closing: What additional expenses could affect the final cost and delivery date?

Don’t Rush It

Of the three factors that constrain your project, time is the most critical because it’s the only one you can’t dial back; once time is spent, it’s gone for good. Yet time is critical to project development in competitive industries. Being first to market with innovations and upgrades can spell the difference between modest gains and meteoric success. In many organizations, that means the pressure is on to meet deadlines that aren’t always realistic.

During the execution and assessment phases, it’s tempting to make those tight deadlines by cutting corners on testing and assessment. We’ve all seen major launches beset by bugs and flaws because the project went through insufficient testing, and you don’t want to be in the shoes of those IT managers when they failed to do the impossible. Set limits on time constraints and stick to them to enjoy successful projects.

Scaling It Back

Scope creep is a notorious project killer. Organizations that start off with a manageable goal, stretch it to cover tasks it was never meant to perform, and still expect IT to deliver on the original project’s parameters have sealed the project’s fate.

Help forestall scope creep with segmentation, breaking projects down into multiple phases of development. For example, if your goal is to migrate old product data to the web so customers can browse your catalog online, divide this large project into steps. Your first goal might be to migrate data from paper into a digital format. Next, you could move those digital records into a searchable database for internal company use. Once everyone’s become familiar with storing and retrieving files within the database, you’re ready to complete the project’s final phase and take it to the web for your customers’ use.

Most project failures don’t arise from a lack of knowledge or skill but from a lack of planning. Eliminate your biggest risks by planning thoroughly, and you’ll develop a reputation for success that will follow you from project to project.

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