Go Small for Project Success



By Michael Rosato

St. Joseph’s College

Patchogue, NY, USA



Large amounts of projects fail to be completed on time and on budget every year.  Based off statistics reported by organizations such as the Project Management Institute, trends are not showing any big improvements in these areas.  As new project success measures are being discussed, the projects failing to be complete within the traditional constraints continue to hamper major corporations, government agencies and global business. During review of many of these surveys the correlation between project size and project failure is evident.  Specifically to IT projects, different methodologies do not provide a large enough benefit to combat the challenges of increased project size. As large projects continue to face performance issues, project managers can relate project size to increases in severity and frequency of many common project challenges.


The amount of studies and surveys conducted every year on project management failures is plentiful.  Many of these statistics show the high number of projects that ultimately are delivered late and over budget while providing some of the drivers behind these failures.  As you read through these various studies one can quickly correlate many of these issues back to a single variable in the project and that is project size.  When speaking about large and small projects factors discussed are complexity, durations and costs.  As more and more projects are utilizing methodologies to deliver fast business value identifying project success is consistently being discussed.

Companies are frequently being challenged with overcoming the after effects of failed project delivery. This paper will utilize the findings from specific Project Management studies such as the Standish Group CHAOS report to illustrate the correlation between project size and failure.  The common drivers of project failure will be identified and discussed in terms of project size.

Project Success Criteria

Project success can and will be defined by the client or company embarking on a project to enhance their business.  As the agile methods is extremely prevalent in the software development industry, business value and speed to market have been tagged as the measure of success while traditional constraints are thought to have some flexibility.  Other concepts believe if the long-term benefits outweigh the cost then the project is a success (Nicholas & Hidding, 2010). However, when large-scale projects fail the delays in schedule and enormous cost overruns lead to the heartache many companies deal with when the smoke has cleared.

Many people in the industry are familiar with the term “Black Swan”, which was brought to light by Alexander Budzier and Bent Flyvbjerg in their study published in a 2011 Harvard Business Review. The term refers to massive IT projects that overrun their budgets up to 200% (Flyvbjerg & Budzier, 2011).  Large software implementations can usually be found in the form of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions.  The project between North American environmental solutions provider Waste Management and software vendor & integrator SAP come to mind over their botched ERP implementation.  The project was a complete failure, which ultimately lead to a 500 million dollar lawsuit and ultimate settlement between both parties (Kanaracus, 2010).  Although business value is the ultimate goal, measures of a projects success needs to acknowledge the triple constraints.  Again many of the statistics and surveys produced by consulting and management firms bring us back to cost, time and scope.

The Harsh Truth of Project Failures

There are many surveys conducted every year on the state of project management. Many of these surveys are conducted globally and cross industry lines to give an overall view of the rate of project successes and drivers of project failure.  As a client these numbers look alarming but as project managers these figures seem to accurately reflect many projects we are involved with.  PMI’s Pulse of the Profession broadly shows a snapshot of the project management industry.  A diverse population of over 3,000 professionals spanning different industries drives the statistics.

The chart below shows that since 2011 projects on average have been completed on time and on budget less than 60% of the time.


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Editor’s note: Student papers are authored by graduate or undergraduate students based on coursework at accredited universities or training programs.  This paper was prepared during the author’s enrollment in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, New York, USA. Supervising professor was Prof Edward Gillespie.

How to cite this paper:
Rosato, M. (2018). Go Small for Project Success, PM World Journal, Volume VII, Issue 5, May 2018. https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/pmwj70-May2018-Rosato-go-small-for-project-success-student-paper.pdf

About the Author

Michael Rosato

New York, USA



Michael Rosato 
is a graduate student pursuing his MBA from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, New York.  Michael is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and has earned additional certification in Agile methodologies.  He has worked in the Utility industry for over 8 years operating in New York City.  Michael has held a previous position in portfolio management focusing on cost controls, forecasting and project selection.  He is currently holding the title of project manager with oversight on a comprehensive software implementation.

Michael can be contacted at [email protected]