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Failure is part of the progress towards success. A significant percentage of IT projects fail. There are many consequences to face when a project fails but the worst is when the team or company does not learn anything from the failed project. Though every project is unique, we can learn some lessons from a failed project and apply to the next projects –

Detailed Current Project Schedule– The project plan should be thorough and cover everything. Many times, projects are executed with poor planning which results in failure. Sometimes the schedule is too optimistic which may not be possible to achieve in reality. The schedule should be realistic and made considering risks as well.

The project schedule should be detailed. High level and detailed level milestones should be set. Were all tasks being tracked in the schedule? Sometimes small changes get overlooked and though efforts and time are utilized in them, they are not captured. Many such changes can lead to overrun in costs and schedule. It is not easy but the project schedule should be continuously reviewed and updated for changes.

Work not only hard but also smart– The entire team works hard to make the project a success. But in today’s competitive business world, it is imperative to work smart as well. Tasks should be prioritized and team members should know which tasks to delegate to whom and when. You should use tools to improve productivity. The project manager should maintain good professional ties with other departments like procurement and HR as the project is dependent on their services too for being a success. The project should learn from mistakes of other projects so that it does not end up making the same. Simple tasks should be automated. If the team cannot solve an issue for quite some time, it should not waste more time looking for solutions, but should ask an expert.

Team engagement (*How to manage your team)– Another major cause of project failure is lack of team engagement. The entire team might not be focused on achieving the project objectives. It could be due to lack of motivation, focus on other projects or lack of skills. There might be lack of team spirit. The project manager should engage with the team from Day 1. It is important to have honest and transparent communication within the team. The project manager should take steps to ensure that the team works together to achieve the project goals.

Goals and Objectives Assessment– Were the project objectives defined clearly? Did all stakeholders know the defined project objectives? Many times the project objectives are not clearly defined. Unambiguous goals can be interpreted by different parties in different ways. This leads to the project deviating from the main objectives. It is important to define the goals of the project properly. The goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. If any goal does not fit these parameters, then it should be discarded or reframed. The project goals should be understood and accepted by all stakeholders and only then should project execution begin.

Scope– Does the scope of the implemented application look different from the project scope decided upon at the project planning phase? Weak scope management can lead to scope creep and lot of changes in the application during project execution. This can lead to cost overruns and there can be missed milestones or deadlines. Straying away from defined scope can lead to project failure in terms of not meeting the goals set for cost and schedule. The client might refuse to accept the product/application. It is important to define the project scope and project objectives clearly. The scope document should be accepted and signed by the client. If there are changes that cannot be avoided, they should be documented, planned for and present in the scope document. The project schedule should be updated for the new changes and the relevant task owners should be notified of the change.

Communication– Communication is very important in a project. There are various types and levels of communication. It is important that relevant information is communicated with the project stakeholders as required so that everyone is aware of the project status and works accordingly. Here is a depiction of project communication at various levels

Project Communication

It is not easy to execute a project successfully. There are various challenges on the way and if you are not vigilant, you will realize about the issues towards the end of the project. Project failure should be treated as a stepping stone to successful project execution in future projects. You should learn from the mistakes made and ensure that they are not repeated in the next project.