The Top Reasons Projects Are Unsuccessful


By Richard Morreale


Over the years, I have been asked to review and audit many projects—projects showing signs of trouble, projects in what could be considered “terminal trouble,” and projects that had already given up the ghost. I was asked to do this for several reasons. The first was to see if the projects showing signs of trouble were really in trouble and, if they were, what we could do to keep them from going terminal. The second was to see if the projects considered in terminal trouble really were terminal and if there was something we could do to save them. And the third was to see what lessons the organization could take away from the projects that had already given up the ghost, so the mistakes made on that project weren’t made again.

Projects are unsuccessful for many reasons. What I learned, however, over the years of managing projects, speaking with other project managers, and reviewing and auditing projects was that the same problems showed up repeatedly. The following are many challenges that cause projects to be unsuccessful.

1. Lack of Agreed Requirements

The lack of agreed requirements is the number-one reason projects are unsuccessful. And it doesn’t matter whether you are developing something that will take you a month or take you a year. It’s still the same. The lack of agreed requirements is the number-one cause of unsuccessful projects. Now, no project manager should start a team working on a project without first knowing what the client wants, but some project managers do. They start the project without clearly understanding what the client wants. The project starts without an agreed requirement, or if there is one, it is usually an inadequate one. People start working to deliver what they think the customer wants, and soon enough, they discover that they really don’t know what the customer wanted, and they’ve wasted lots of time, effort, and money. The project starts on the wrong foot and continues out of step. Morale could be affected. It’s just a bad scene.

Look, when you are not talking about information technology projects, it’s easy to see why you need requirements documents. It would be foolish to have a carpenter come to build a house for you on some land you owned, and the requirements were that you wanted a “real nice” house that’s “big enough” and has “enough” bathrooms. Oh, and by the way, you want it finished in three months, and you want to know how much it will cost. You see how foolish that sounds? Well, the same thing can be said about requirements for IT projects. Attempt to build a system without a set of requirements, and you know you will be in trouble.


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About the Author

Richard Morreale

Richard Morreale is the founder of Inspiration Systems Inc and is a project manager, professional speaker, consultant, trainer, and author. He has managed projects, conducted training, led workshops and spoken at conferences, company meetings and associations in the US, Middle East, Africa, Asia, UK and other European countries.   His project and program experience ranges from working as part of the Apollo Program Team, helping to put men on the moon (and getting them back), to working as part of the team that computerized the UK Income Tax System. He also led the rescue and delivery of a $450M Program for the 43 Police Forces in England and Wales and directed programs of work for some of the largest companies in the world!

Richard has international experience of founding and leading the growth of a successful Project Management Consultancy in the UK, managing organizations of up to 1200 people for various clients and working in a number of different organizational sectors including Telecommunications, UK Local and Central Government, Financial Services, the US Government, Utilities, Transportation, the IT Industry and Retail.  He is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and on the Board of the NSA/Carolinas Chapter.

Richard’s latest book is Top Gun Project Managers: 8 Strategies for Reaching the Top of the PM Profession, published in January 2012 by Multi-Media Publications. ISBN: 9781554891139; soft cover, 188 pages – Download the book from the publisher at  http://www.mmpubs.com/catalog/top-gun-project-managers-reaching-the-top-book-p-425.html

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