Why Projects Fail

Why Projects Fail

Businesses always desire to expand their workings and create new profit-making revenue streams. Business goals and milestones help teams to focus on achieving those business objectives. Project management helps teams to achieve their business goals in a planned and organized manner.

Proper project management is very important for making businesses successful. It helps to architect projects in an effective manner. Moreover, it aids in pursuing goals against fixed deadlines and deliver value on a consistent basis.

Projects can go horribly wrong at times and incur great losses for investors and stakeholders.

So, it’s important to know about some common causes which cause projects to fail.

1. Poor requirements engineering

Requirements engineering is the process of defining, documenting and maintaining the client’s requirements. It can also include researching and discovering the feature functionality needed to develop a system. Project leaders, end users, customers, and stakeholders also provide valuable feedback to determine the project’s scope.

Poor requirements engineering

Requirements form the base of all projects. They determine the project outcomes i.e. what the project proposes to deliver. They also define the business value to be generated in the project. Thus, requirements engineering plays a crucial role in managing projects. There can be several reasons why client-centric requirements may not be properly gathered :

  • The client fails to explain clearly what he/she needs in the project.
  • The process/project manager fails to understand what the client actually wants.
  • Even though requirements may be clearly explained and understood, they may not be retained or documented in a proper manner. As a result, they could be forgotten or overlooked over time.

A project’s scope can be easily defined if client requirements are gathered, understood, analyzed and documented in a proper manner.

2. Failed team collaboration

In a collaborative team, individuals share common beliefs and work as a consolidated unit to seek common goals. Typically, team members spend time together to discuss ways and means to collectively accomplish tasks as a “set team,” rather than as individuals.

Failed team collaboration

Team members with varying levels of expertise should share tasks, responsibilities, resources, and leadership. They should encourage each other to interact positively, and participate with an open mind in group problem-solving and decision-making activities.

Decisions should be ideally made through group consensus and polls. Moreover, team members should criticize ideas and not each other.

Team collaboration is vital for successful project implementation. It helps to increase productivity levels and deliver positive results to the organization.

Teams may fail to collaborate due to various reasons :

  • When there’s too much information to share, several methods and collaborative tools to choose from and excessive knowledge to be digested. Team members often fail to pinpoint important and relevant points of discussion. They may spend excessive time discussing less important issues that could be easily resolved later on.
  • Knowledge gap and lack of individual skills within the team may decrease collaboration levels. Some people might need special training to use certain tools.
  • Teams in different time zones or locations may have to log in and remain available during non-office hours to collaborate. They may find it difficult to do so and fail to communicate on a regular basis.

3. Lack of motivation within team members

As per a recent study, 48% of employees don’t like their jobs, over 80% of American workers feel stressed while working in their offices, while only 30% of them feel engaged and inspired by their careers.

Lack of motivation within team members

Generally, an employee who loses his or her inspiration or will to take productive work-related actions is a demotivated employee. Typically, they don’t desire to learn new skills or make efforts to advance their careers.

The reasons could be many.

Demotivated employees exhibit some, or all, of the following characteristics :

  • Reduced levels of commitment and work involvement.
  • Late coming, unusual delay at work or repeated sick leaves.
  • Intentionally sabotages projects or acts as a roadblock.
  • Makes repeated mistakes.
  • Displays signs of carelessness.
  • Shows negative behavior and attitude.
  • Gives less productivity.
  • Disregards comments, requests, and warnings.

For an organization, all team members must be fully engaged and fully committed to their work to be effective.

4. Absence or lack of client involvement

The client generally provides an in-depth understanding of the business process or product that he/she wants to automate or develop. Therefore, he/she is usually the best Subject Matter Expert (SME).

Absence or lack of client involvement

The client defines the quality of project deliverables and states the manner in which they’re to be delivered. So, consistent and meaningful client involvement is very necessary for successful project completion.

Project managers and requirements engineers depend largely upon client availability to gather feedback and make informed decisions. If the client is unable to engage or provide the required information in time, work gets delayed and the project cost increases.

Lack of client engagement can lead to various issues :

  • The team starts losing work-focus and development work slows down owing to lack of client feedback.
  • The team fails to deliver quality work on time.
  • It becomes difficult for team members to relate and align their work towards project goals and objectives.
  • Team performance metrics remain unchecked so maximum team productivity is not availed.
  • The project development cost increases.

5. Slow and infrequent work delivery

Deadlines help to create a sense of urgency for the team to remain on its toes and complete work on time. In a highly competitive market scenario, businesses have to ensure their projects are completed on time. Extending project deadlines can prove to be costly. It can drain profit margins. As per a survey by the Project Management Institute, organizations waste as much as $97 million for every $1 billion invested due to failed projects that did not deliver on time.

Slow and infrequent work delivery

Project completion is drastically affected by slow or infrequent delivery of work. Therefore, it’s important to speed up work, increase productivity levels and complete work on time.

A few factors that cause slow and infrequent work delivery:

  • Over-commitment – Team commits to more work than it can handle and cannot deliver
  • Not resolving issues on time – The project manager and/or the team is unable to resolve technical and other issues on time
  • Communication failure – The team has to rework on certain tasks or fails to include them in “To-do” list
  • Lack of organization skills – The team is not trained or lacks certain abilities to organize its work
  • Working independently – Teams members don’t collaborate and don’t pursue goals collectively
  • No sense of urgency – The team makes no efforts to speed up work and has no sense of urgency
  • Fails to follow the process – Team members don’t follow the project management process as they’re supposed to do

6. Mounting technical debts

Businesses need fast and reliable project deliverables to speed up sales and churn more profits. For them, it is always a race against time. However, while speeding up business processes to generate more quantity of deliverables in less time, they are often forced to compromise upon the quality and reliability aspects.

Mounting technical debts

As the quality aspects are compromised upon right from the start, businesses are obliged to rework and improve upon them at a later stage, since they have already charged their customers.

The rework process has a price tag attached to it. Teams have to put in additional efforts to correct the quality. It costs money. Therefore, additional costs have to be borne by businesses to fulfill their sales commitments.

So if the development cost of a product or a service is “X” amount and an additional “Y” amount is required to correct the quality issue and fulfill the sales commission, the additional “Y” amount is a “debt” the business has to pay.

In a broad sense, this type of debt can be understood as a technical debt. The profit margins are severely affected by this type of debt since the more the debt increases, the more the profits decreases.

There can be many reasons why technical debts arise :

  • Customer’s requirements are not properly understood. The team has to create or develop something “extra” in the product or service to meet customer demands.
  • Delivering more in less time. The team does not have the potential to deliver client requirements in the specified time so it compromises upon quality aspects.
  • Lack of technical skills. The team is not technically sound to design the product or service as per customer expectations.
  • Improper testing procedures. The team delivers the product or service and the customer finds flaws in its design or working while using it.


The project management process is not easy. There is no ‘magic button” to provide an instant fix for project related problems and issues. The solutions lie in the manner how people work and collaborate, what their skill sets and levels are, and how they make optimum use of technology and tools.

Moreover, each business is unique in its own way with regards to its working model and business deliverables. It’s not possible to design a common resolution which can solve each of their problems.

You can Talk to our Expert or Try implementing Quickscrum to bring agility within your team

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