Why big projects too often fail

Effective project management can have huge, lasting benefits for organisations – but unfortunately, too many big projects simply do not end on time, go over budget, or change significantly in scope across their duration with all the spiralling cost which that entails.

They are, of course, difficult to develop sound methodologies around for a variety of reasons. From day one, they tend to be vast, unique in nature, have finite start and end dates, and involve mixed teams with members drawn from several backdrops. All of these can create significant headaches for all involved.

Drilling down a bit further, projects can often fail for visibility reasons. All three tiers of the project team – executive management, project managers, and team members – require access to the correct level of information at the right time. Priorities can become confused, compounded by no standardised approach being in place, while progress and risk can become difficult to track. Task priority must never be in doubt – it should always be clear and equivocal with a designated person or team assigned to see it through.

Many projects fail to simply identify measurable business outcomes, and without a clear destination in sight, they’re likely to lose their bearings early on.

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Another common issue can be effective communication, particularly once a project gets into full swing. When project teams use email to discuss projects and tasks, effectively project communication resides in each individual’s inbox. When things change, which they almost inevitably will, then there is no centralised way of viewing and tracking the project history.

Fundamentally, top performing projects require effective planning, scheduling, delegating, and monitoring – in other words, a clear overview of the ‘big picture’. They need consistency, accuracy, transparency, engagement and discipline.

The best approach to achieving project success is to utilise a complete enterprise project management solution where projects are centralised in one database, offering a combination of tools, process, and people-based changes for a truly holistic approach. It should be a bespoke approach that’s customised to that specific business – and once software solutions are invested in by management, they require the buy-in of all involved.

Web-based systems allow project information to be accessed remotely, creating a central resource that promotes heightened visibility and empowers team members to log their own activity and present information in real time.

For organisations to work smarter, most enterprise applications have moved to the cloud, and project management is no exception, helping to align all tasks. Companies are increasingly investing in cloud project management applications as they realise employees can be more productive when they can access their work wherever they are.

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Using the right software, managers are able to define and use plan templates, model what-if scenarios, and create simple or complex tracking plans. They can define key milestones and specific closure criteria; define spend and benefits profiles; link project documentation and appraisals and track expenditure and progress, all in real-time.

A combination of proven methodologies built on evidence-based governance frameworks and sophisticated software helps to bring discipline to every stage of the process, providing rigid controls and automation of generic tasks around actions, issues, risks, deliverables, and benefit tracking.

The best solutions offer totally integrated software platforms in the cloud which allow departments to communicate effortlessly through the sharing of real-time data and thus to adopt a unique approach to repeatable project management success.

They allow users to manage all aspects of a project, from milestones and actions, to plans and risks.

Essentially, built-in automation benefits should mean that a small army of personnel is no longer required to manage all project aspects – a small army that too often fails to deliver – allowing staff to focus instead on solving day-to-day project issues.

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Furthermore, this inbuilt automation means project managers have real-time data available at all times to make well-informed decisions. The software should provide daily reminders to all team members of what needs to be completed and when, and goes beyond other project management tools by boiling things down to an extremely granular level. This explicit ownership by individuals helps to drive timely completion of actions while flagging ones that are overdue.

The best software solutions should also allow in-depth tracking of business cases and investment portfolios. This enables budgets and benefits targets to flow down to the lowest level of project planning. Efficient time and expense recording ensure that financials are always accurate, in real time, while auto-generated risk reports provide further assurance.

Smart software is completely changing the way teams approach project management for the better, ensuring improved action tracking and scheduling, much higher accountability, enhanced communication, optimised decision-making, cost management, and more.

Simply put, if you’re yet to invest in project management software, then you may be working a lot harder than you need to – and losing out on considerable savings too.

Steven Boyle, CEO of Integrated Cloud Group

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