Andy Wilson

As listed out in our other article, we understand the most frequent causes for IT projects ‘failing’. The earlier such ‘failings’ can be spotted the better as correction will likely be easier, more rapid and less costly. As we have seen time and time again with new client approaches with questions about project recovery, its remarkably easy and common for warning signals to be missed. So, just what should you be watching out for, in the way of warning signs? Here are 7 regular warning signs: 

  • Repeated Scheduling of Delays and Shifting Target Dates – the occasional move of a target milestone date may be fine, and some delays can and will be caught up, but repeated extensions of the roadmap timetable are often signals that things are not going well. Its important at the original timetabling of project markers and milestones, that these are realistic. If they are too tight, enforced delays can adversely impact morale and even generate unwarranted concern. But if the markers have been established with good sense and realistic expectations, then repeated shifting of these can be a useful indicator of things going awry. If properly recorded, this can also provide useful information about exactly what it is that is going wrong. 
  • Escalating Additional CostsThe costs of an IT project failure are well documented. In some instances, securing additional capital that was not aligned to the original budget, can be a good thing – particularly if it secures a necessary recovery of the project, as a whole or enables the project to meet its original timetable. Even better if it helps to incorporate previously unexplored benefits. More often, it represents additional cost that is necessary to get the project to completion, because of implementation inefficiencies and / or fundamental lack of planning and understanding of the true complexities.
  • Increasing Scope – we’ve just written that expanding the scope of the project will likely increase costs, which to some readers will represent a degree of ‘failure’. If this is happening repeatedly, then there’s clear cause for concern. A one-off change of scope may be what is required as a pragmatic solution to a project that was not fully thought through at the outset, but a comprehensive roadmap constructed out of a full Discovery phase should avoid any such necessity. Closely scrutinise the original roadmap and fully assess if there is truly a need for a change that might otherwise extend the timing and extent of ROI. 
  • No Agreed Method for Implementation – although the project objectives may be clear, some head out on implementation far too early and before structure and milestones are clearly established. Similarly, does the project really have the sufficient resources in place required to ensure a successful completion? Has the roadmap a detailed and realistic timetable and method for measurement of progress? If any of these elements are missing, or ill-defined, that could be a likely contributor to some form of project ‘failure’. 
  • Uninformed Project Management – if the timetabling of your KPI measures and milestones is not providing you with the right information and failing to keep you properly informed as to project progress, this will likely lead to project ‘failure’, either through delay or poor realisation of original expectations. If you are finding yourself ill-informed early on in the exercise, this is useful sign that measurement and milestones, and possibly overall project structure, need to be revised and improved. 
  • Low Morale and Poor Cooperation – poor communication across the project team specifically, or across the company more broadly, can be an indicator of potential project ‘failure’. Have your IT and Business teams been communicating effectively to identify precisely what the business requires? Have they worked closely together, with other stakeholders to plan and map out the implementation roadmap? Communication is key to project success. It is essential to foster an open communication environment so that your implementation teams and other stakeholders will be quickly informed of when things are going wrong, to whatever extent. Close monitoring of team and company communication can provide an early indication of when a project implementation is not going as smoothly as expected.
  • Unclear Accountability – something that should be clear early on in the planning stage but is often overlooked. Poor task prioritisation, along with proper governance and task accountability often leads to ‘finger pointing’ and unhelpful blame apportion. If you observe this practice within your implementation team or coming from other stakeholders, then project failure may be brewing, or have already arrived.  

Identification of these warning signs can help if avoiding your project from ending in some form of ‘failure’, whether big or small. No project is completely risk free. If you enter into any implementation with the reverse of that perspective, then project failure is all the more likely. It’s essential to identify and document any risks that might conceivably derail your project. Monitor the signs of such risks, watch for those warning signs, note and record their occurrence. Some may correct within the project timeframe and roadmap, but if you find any getting worse, there are ways to affect a quick and efficient correction.

Do you have an IT Project that you believe is failing?
If so, please submit your details below and one of partners who specialises in project recovery will review your case and be in touch.
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