As a major project sponsor (or project leader), you want your strategic initiative to be successful and deliver the expected business benefits on time and within budget. However, the reality is that many initiatives struggle and fail to meet their targets. According to some statistics, up to 70% of projects fail to deliver on their original promises. But how do you know if your strategic initiative is in trouble and more likely to fail? There are five warning signs to look for to alert you to the possibility that your project is – or is about to be – in trouble.
1. Schedule Delays: The first sign that your initiative may be in trouble is when it misses an interim deadline. While the team may consider it a minor setback, it can lead to schedule delays that build up over time. Schedule delays represent both expense and opportunity costs, and if the team is unable to meet one milestone, how can they be expected to meet the next one or the “go-live milestone”? Schedule delays typically build upon one another, resulting in missed deadlines, budget overruns, and missed benefits. And since on any project with an existing team “time is money”, this leads to the second sign that your project may be in trouble.
2. Cost Overruns: Cost overruns are another warning sign that your strategic initiative may be in trouble. While earlier problems may be seen as conquerable without affecting the overall project budget, cost overruns usually manifest around the midpoint of the initiative. Making up for schedule delays or overcoming instances of scope creep can require spending more, which can quickly get out of hand and spiral out of control.
3. Dysfunctional Decision-making: Dysfunctional decision-making is another warning sign to look out for. A key element that delays projects and results in cost overruns is decision-making on the initiative that is time-consuming, “non-sticky,” and generally unclear. Cross-functional initiatives in larger companies tend to have this problem more often than not. It is unclear who the final decision-makers are, how they should make decisions, and what the team should do if no decision is made. Each day that decisions delay the team is a day of both budget and schedule that is lost.
4. Scope Creep: Scope creep refers to unmanaged changes in project requirements that result in ever-changing priorities of team members, confusion, and delays. Changing priorities and objectives as well as inaccurate requirements are major contributors to many project failures. According to a 2015 study by Wrike, large projects are twice as likely to be late, over budget, and missing critical features than small projects. A large project is more than 10 times more likely to fail outright, meaning it will be cancelled or will not be used because it outlived its usefulness prior to implementation.
5. Strained Stakeholder Relationships: The final warning sign is when relations between the project team and key stakeholders are strained. The team engaged in delivery must interact with a number of key stakeholders, from the Finance and HR teams to the support teams who will support the output of the project once complete. The biggest stakeholder is the business group who will use this output (whether it be a new technology, new office, or new product) to deliver the business benefits. When relations between the project team and any of these key stakeholders are strained, the chances of success diminish – regardless of how the project itself is performing.
Each of these issues can be addressed with solutions that will allow your team to succeed. At Consequent, we have over 20 years of experience putting projects on a solid path to success, from the best structured launch to the turnaround of struggling projects. Your team and your project deserve the best foundation for success possible. Let us help you ensure that happens for your important project. Contact us at www.cnsqnt.com.