Why hybrid projects fail

Development of a retrospective assessment method for hybrid projects



By Benjamin Auer and Philipp Rosenberger

Vienna, Austria



The project business in the IT sector is constantly growing and the budgets of IT departments are getting bigger and bigger, even though according to studies only 16,2% of all projects are successful. (Standish Group, 2015) There is a trend that tries to mix the classic and agile project methods. The target of this approach is to apply best practices of those two methods (e.g. faster “time to market” and flexibility) while trying to keep the organizational structures and -processes (Komus et al., 2015). A difficulty is that there is no exact definition of how a hybrid project should be executed. Another problem is that the role of project manager does not exist in the agile approach.

The other challenge is that projects are normally measured based on key performance indicators. But there is no clear definition on what a key performance indicator is and what it is not. Therefore, projects are not comparable with the use of key performance indicators. (Parmenter 2015). Do to this lack of measuring, project risks are increasingly threatening project success (Csiszarik-Kocsir et al 2017). According to studies there are eight reasons why projects fail and by means of expert interviews those eight reasons have been confirmed and the list was expanded, including four additional reasons (Coolman A. 2016).

This paper presents a review system for hybrid projects with which it is possible to check if projects have failed due to known obstacles. In addition, two possible definition models for hybrid projects are presented in detail, as well as the possible results of each individual phase (start, execution and close-down) that every project passes through. By means of literature research and interviews, stumbling blocks were identified as to why projects could fail. Based on these stumbling blocks, questions were developed for a retrospective assessment method. Based on these questions, an expert can evaluate whether the failure of the project coincides with one of the identified obstacles/reasons. In an excurs, possible key figures for hybrid projects are presented.

Key words: hybrid project, projects fail, key performance indicators,

JEL code: H43 (project evaluation)


The 2015 Chaos Report found that only 16.2 percent of all projects could be considered successful. An additional 52.7 percent has come to an end, but at least one of the aspects was outside the magic triangle (quality, time and cost). The remaining projects were never completed and stopped in between. (Standish Group, 2015)

When the study published by the German Project Management Association (GPM) is used, 39 percent of the projects in the surveyed companies are executed with using a hybrid approach. In 25 percent of the projects, a situational approach is selected (classic, agile or hybrid). If one assumes that the 25 percent can be split linearly, one recognizes that more than 47 percent of the projects in the surveyed companies are handled with a hybrid approach. (Komus et al., 2015)

The challenge of hybrid projects is that they try to do the splits between two mythologies. On the one side, there are the existing structures and organizations of a company, on the other side one tries to use the advantages of the agile approach. For this purpose, an attempt by Mr. Habermann was published, in which the interaction between an agile approach and a classical approach in a laboratory simulation was recreated. (Habermann 2013) The result of this simulation containing 26 teams and showed, that a hybrid approach was superior to full agile or full classical project approaches. Based on this conclusion, it seems that hybrid models can become more common in the future.


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Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the most recent Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States at the University of Latvia in Riga in April 2018.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers

How to cite this paper: Auer, B., and Rosenberger, P. (2018). Why hybrid projects fail – Development of a retrospective assessment method for hybrid projects; Proceedings of the 7th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia, April 2018; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue X – October.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/pmwj75-Oct2018-Auer-Rosenberger-Why-Hybrid-Projects-Fail.pdf


About the Authors

Benjamin Auer

Vienna, Austria




Since 2006 Benjamin Auer has been working as a team leader and project manager in various projects and industries. Currently he is working in the insurance sector as an IT project manager in a program that replaces the existing ECM group-wide. Before that he was an IT project manager in the field of individual software development with a focus on the introduction of ERP systems. Prior to that he worked as project manager for a tunnel construction project in the field of communications engineering. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in project management and IT and a Master of Science in technical management.  Benjamin Auer can be contacted at [email protected]


Philipp Rosenberger

Vienna, Austria




Philipp Rosenberger is a lecturer at FH Campus Vienna at master program technical management focusing on IT project management in an agile development context. After many years in aftersales and business consulting as well as project management and especially IT project management development in Europe and China, he got into the financial sector, managing the implementation of a current account financial product implementation project at ING DiBa Online bank in Vienna and in parallel starting his consulting company ROSCON.at. Philipp now focuses on scientific research of hybrid IT project management models, fulfilling the both needs of a tightly managed classical project regarding budget, cost, quality, predictability and reliability, as well as the needs of an agile culture in the development part of the project. Philipp can be contacted at mailto:[email protected]