Illustration by Lee Dongyeon
Embarking on a new information technology (IT) project is without a doubt, a daunting process for big organisations, entrepreneurs and even students. During the planning phase, a key question that comes to mind would be “who is responsible for managing this project?” For projects of a smaller scale, the natural assumption would be to have the owner of the project idea manage it. Apart from taking into account the project size, there are other factors to be considered such as one’s ability to lead or manage a team with different technical capabilities. It is worth noting that the process of birthing an idea is far different from the planning and execution process.
IT projects have a notoriously high failure rate
1 in 6 IT projects overrun its budget by 200%. Those with a budget of more than $1 million are 50% less likely to meet key business objectives. Research has also shown that digital transformation and product innovation projects have a failure rate of 70% and 95% respectively. The presence of mega-software projects in both government and private organisations is in line with the increasing demand for accessible and integrated data. Moreover, a study by Gartner has found that 85% of big data projects ended in failures. With a failure rate so high, coupled with the heavy investments on these endeavours, one has got to ask, why are these projects failing?
Why do projects fail?
The statistics presented above would lead stakeholders to re-evaluate and determine the actual value when starting on a new project. But let’s uncover why the projects’ failure rates are so high despite the prominence of these IT projects in the industry. To achieve this,we consulted our very own project managers (PM) in 2359 Media, while looking into studies revolving around this topic. Looking back at Gartner’s study, the findings reveal that despite the organisations’ attempts to incorporate big data practices into their internal infrastructure, the large majority of these businesses are not ready to embrace big data. Aside from the difficulties during the integration phase, companies are also expected to deal with factors such as internal politics, skills discrepancies and security and governance challenges.
Our PMs expressed that the misalignment of scope and requirements between stakeholders and the project team could potentially lead to a project going sideways. Even with a clear end product in mind, the key objectives of the project may not have been effectively communicated to the team. For example, an organisation may decide to come up with a software that helps to manage petty cash better. While the UX designer might assume that the software will be used by the accounting department to keep track of the cash that’s going out, the developer could be led to believe that the software would be used by staff to submit requests for their petty cash claims.
Unexpectedly, the lack of management’s support was also identified as a contributing factor to the failure of IT projects. This is surprising as most business leaders place emphasis on transforming their businesses through continuous upgrades of their practices. As the Senior management tends to take on the role of key stakeholders of a large IT project, there is an expectation for them to ensure the project’s success by addressing key issues raised by the team. On top of that expectation, senior management are also expected to be fully engaged as this is often overlooked due to other priorities to the business.
However, let’s not forget those who choose project management softwares over the actual skills of a PM. Project management softwares are tools used by PMs to keep track of how a project is going, where resources are being delegated to, so on and so forth. But without the ability to properly manage a project, such tools will only be used to contain records of failures and unmet milestones of the project.
Projects fail because of people. From poor decision making to improper planning to misaligned expectations, all of these mistakes can only be made by people; people who are not meant to manage projects.
Responsibilities of a project manager
Now that we know how important it is to have a skilled PM, let’s find out how a PM can ensure the success of a project.
During the onboarding phase, a PM has to set realistic goals, while taking into account the budget constraints and deadlines. This prevents projects from derailing before it has even begun. It is essential for the PM to communicate with the different stakeholders to have a complete picture of all the strategic priorities and objectives of the project. Engaging in cost estimations, resource management and risk assessments, a PM can then craft out a project plan based on the priorities discussed that can effectively meet both the timeline and budget. The newly defined objectives and scope of the project will then be conveyed to the project team, where the PM will help to break down and delegate the project scope. Going forward, the PM will ensure that the project milestones are met according to the deadline and that budgets are not being overrun, while keeping an eye out for potential risks that may arise.
Not only do PMs manage deadlines and objectives, they also pay attention to the quality of the tasks executed.
Good project management can drive the overarching goals of an organisation. PMs help to ensure that the project’s goals and upcoming milestones are aligned with the organisation’s strategies. Effective stakeholder management can also ensure that these initiatives can successfully drive the organisation forward.
Illustration by Lee Dongyeon
How 2359 makes a difference
Here at 2359 Media, we ensure satisfaction right from the beginning, starting with our project onboarding process. A clear and open communication between the key stakeholders of the project and our team is established from the beginning. Throughout the project milestones, clients are aware that they can reach out to the project team for any help or clarifications. Our PMs are also equipped with strong technical acumen, conflict resolution and time management skills. Would your organisation like to have the experience of a successful, smooth-sailing project? Reach out to us here.
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