Organisations continuously experience increased competition and market disruptions. Effective project management practices enable organisations to achieve success and desired outcomes. Projects are therefore vital for driving improvements within the organisations.
However, project failure rates are still quite high as 15% of projects were deemed failures in 2018 according to a PMI® survey of 4,455 Project Management Practitioners.1 This poses a question of what can you do to avoid such scenario for your projects and below the 3 key secrets to achieving project success are explored.
1. Collect Requirements Effectively
One of the standard processes during the planning stage of any project is the collection of requirements. It might seem a straightforward process on some projects, however, incorrect requirements are the main cause of project failure ranging between 47% and 70% in recent years.2
There are many aspects of this process that may go wrong and lead to the failure of a project. Examples include:
• Some of the key stakeholders may not be included in the process of defining and elaborating requirements for a project or might be disengaged. Therefore, it is important to do an in-depth stakeholder analysis and get people on board at the early stages of the project.
• Ineffective communication when collecting requirements. It is vital to be asking stakeholders the right questions to be able to formulate the right requirements. It is not always about what they would expect or would not expect in terms of technical details, but also what would actually make the work easier / more streamlined for affected stakeholders in the future, i.e. what would actually drive the business value. Stakeholders may not be able to answer some of the questions when they are asked, however, the discussion exploring current difficulties in that area might assist them with formulating the requirements.
• Requirements are rarely clearly defined by stakeholders and rarely are 100% reliable. Think about a situation when you were considering purchasing a house or a car. It is highly likely that you had certain requirements before you have started looking around, however, it is often the case that buyers deviate from them. This tends to happen because buyers are not fully aware of the options available to them at the planning stage. It is much easier to make a house or a car purchase decision when you have explored your options. The same applies to projects in the workplace. The more options / scenarios you can explore with your stakeholders, the more prototypes you can present – the more defined and reliable the requirements will be.
Effective collection of requirements is vital for the success of a project. It is important that you input the time and effort required to gather the well-defined and reliable requirements to avoid wasting time further down the line by executing the work that will not lead to the desired outcomes.
2. Effective Stakeholder Management and Communication
Inadequate / poor stakeholder management and communication is another common cause of project failure. Communication is a key to reducing resistance to change and further adoption of project’s outputs by affected stakeholders. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that your project plan contains extensive communication activities to address different stakeholder needs. You cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to your communication efforts as everybody is different and preferred communication methods would vary.
An over-reliance on written communication methods is often observed, which does not tend to lead to the required outcomes. It is vital to offer your stakeholders a regular face-to-face communication to enable them to be actively involved and contribute to the project’s work. The format of the communication needs to be agreed depending on the needs of stakeholders and the nature of the project. The options may include 1-2-1 meetings, group meetings, workshops, question and answer (Q&A) sessions, demonstrations, presentations etc. Nevertheless, regular face-to-face communication needs be your primary approach to getting your stakeholders engaged throughout the project.
3. Effective Risk Management
Another common cause of project failure is a poor risk management. Organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the topic and start tracking risks, however, the following mistakes are often observed:
• Risk management becomes a risk tracking activity. It is vital to be proactively managing risks and actually taking the necessary steps to address them, i.e. taking treatment actions to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of negative risks happening.
• There are often a huge number of risks being tracked, however, insufficient resources are allocated to manage them, i.e. 1 Project manager cannot actively manage 100 risks simultaneously and perform their other duties. Instead, the Project Manager needs to make sure that they concentrate on the key priority risks (often 5, or a maximum of 10) that either have a potential of having a high and big impact upon a project or a high likelihood of happening, and actively focus on understanding, treating and mitigating those.
We have explored the three key secrets to achieving project success, however, there are many other aspects that require effective project management in order to avoid failure. Projects’ failure is less common in organisations that have mature project management capabilities.1 Therefore, it is vital to continuously advance your project management competency and obtain mature project management capabilities by undertaking professional development courses. There are a number of globally-recognised project management certifications that cover the methods, concepts and tools and techniques for effective project management.
Examples of project management certifications at foundation level include:
If you are already an experienced Project Manager, it would be highly recommended to consider the following certifications at practitioner level:
Take the opportunity to explore the project management certifications above and start developing your project management capability as this is your actual key to success!
Please do not hesitate to contact SkillPoint to discuss our extensive range of certifications and create your own tailored learning journey that would enable you to fast-track your Project Management career.
1 Project Management Institute (PMI)®. 2018. Pulse of the Profession 2018.
2 Irina Kulikova, PhD(tech.), PMP. 2018. Define and elaborate requirements: secrets for achieving project success. PMI® Business Analysis Virtual Conference 2018.