For every $1 billion USD invested in projects annually, $122 million USD is wasted due to poor project performance, according to a 2016 report from the Project Management Institute (PMI). Disruptive global trends and an uncertain economy are cited as key contributors to project failures.
SEE: Twelve early warning signs of IT project failure (ZDNet)
In order to reduce the risk of project failures, the first step is to recognize internal and external factors that pose a threat to project outcomes. Next, you should identify internal weaknesses and move quickly and methodically to address them in ways that are sustainable.
Here are five specific ways to increase your odds of project, program, and portfolio success.
1: Establish an Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO).
The EPMO should align project initiatives with company-wide strategic goals rather than individual department or functional area interests. PMI says organizations that align strategy with EPMO initiatives show a 27% increase in successfully completed projects and a 42% drop in scope creep.
2: Ensure the EPMO/PMO, programs, portfolios, and projects have the full backing and support of project sponsors from start to finish.
From the PMI report: "When more than 80% of projects have an actively engaged executive sponsor, 65% more projects are successful. Yet, on average, only three in five projects have engaged executive sponsors."
3. Develop standardized processes and practices that are organization specific rather than generalized.
Only 25% of organizations have employed standardized PM practices company-wide. Without standardized PM practices, it's almost impossible to clearly determine where problems or breakdowns may exist within the project process.
4. Seek to fill positions with individuals with the necessary leadership and mentoring capabilities, and not just the technical skills.
Softer leadership capabilities and strategic focus are becoming increasingly necessary for effective PM. Companies are looking for individuals with the necessary temperament, critical thinking, mentoring, and judgment. While technical skills are necessary, they are easier to find.
PMI notes that "when organizations focus on all three skill sets, 40% more of their projects meet goals and original business intent."
5. Select the best PM solutions and methodologies for the project.
Employing the best agile methodologies that enable rapid deployment, improved processes, and stakeholder/customer focus can greatly increase the chances of success and satisfaction. In addition, making use of PM software to competently handle and track processes and communication can also increase success ratios.
An important reminder
Due to the rapid pace of global change and how this can impact businesses around the world, following these five steps is not a one-time exercise, but instead requires vigilance.
- 7 ways to disaster proof your projects (TechRepublic)
- First-time project managers need failures (TechRepublic)
- The three best lessons I learned from a failed project (TechRepublic)
- Six types of IT project failure (ZDNet)
- Ebook: IT leader's guide to Agile development (Tech Pro Research)
Moira Alexander is the author of "LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership" and Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications, and a contributor and co-host of the "technically speaking" segment on the Price of Business Talk Radio. She has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada. To find out more about Moira, go to www.leadhershipgroup.com.