What Causes Project Failure?
Projects fail for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they run late or go over budget. Other times, project managers realize, to their dismay, that the project was inaccurately scoped to begin with. Upon close examination, it becomes evident that most of these issues that contribute to project failure can be traced back to a single process: resource management. After all, project managers cannot succeed if they do not know the answers to the following questions:
- How much work have my team members completed?
- How much work is left for my team members to complete?
- Are we behind on any of our tasks? If so, who do I need to speak to about that?
- Do my team members need more time to complete their tasks?
- Are the right resources available for my next project?
Without an effective system in place, project managers must constantly scramble for the information to answer these questions. They must also do their best to convey it to upper management in a clear and concise manner through status reports and updates. It is impossible for executives to make the right strategic decisions when they do not know what people are working on or how the projects are doing. Additionally, if strategic projects do not have priority for critical, scarce resources, it will cause stress for the entire company.
Yet there is even more to consider. A project manager might obtain this information and provide it to management one day, only to have it change the next. This means that the solution to the resource management problem must provide allocation and actuals data, and it must also allow for constant updates and visibility across the enterprise.
How to Ensure Success
Real-time visibility into resource allocation is a necessary requirement for successful projects. Since project teams often require different types of resources (business analysts, developers, team leads, database analysts, etc.), project managers need to know who they can assign tasks to as well as what team members will be able to accommodate. Most companies contain both resources who are overworked and resources who are underworked, but visibility into resource allocation remedies this problem on both ends.
This information must also be easy to update, since it can change due to vacation, illness or resource re-assignment. For this reason, many companies implement resource management systems. The best systems are web-based, which allow for constant updates from users regardless of their location.
Having team members track actual hours worked against tasks and projects is another necessary component. When things go wrong, project managers will be able to pinpoint exactly where the trouble came from, enabling them to get the project back on schedule as soon as possible. Not only that, but having a record of the number of hours various resources spent on a project aids in both future project estimation and cost assessment. In the first place, knowing how long it took to complete a certain type of project in the past serves as a clear indicator for how long another one will take. In the second place, management can use labor hours to provide insight into the true cost of the project, which in turn helps them determine its ROI. Projects with a higher ROI can be given higher priority, benefiting the company at large. No company should be assigning resources to and investing money in projects that are unprofitable.
It is imperative that project managers have the ability to present data on project cost, status, schedules and resources to executives in a clear, concise way. Like project managers, executives need to know where the problems are so that they can address them. They also need to know what is working and what is not so that they can use the information to make top-level decisions. An effective project and resource management solution will reflect changes instantly and provide the visibility needed by management and other departments.
The Future of Projects
When project team members track their time by task and project, project managers can plan with precision and address problems in a timely fashion. Executives can use the data to understand cost expenditure and make important decisions. This will put an end to project failure, as well as eliminate the waste of resources on projects that are not profitable to the company. With the right system and processes in place, no organization will ever have to live with failed projects.
Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx (http://pr.journyx.com), a provider of Web-based software located in Austin, Texas, that tracks time and project accounting solutions to guide customers to per-person, per-project profitability.. In 1997, Curt created the world’s first Internet-based timesheet application - the foundation for the current Journyx product offering. Curt is an avid speaker and author, and recently published “All Your Money Won’t Another Minute Buy: Valuing Time as a Business Resource”.
Bruce A. McGraw is the CEO of Cognitive Technologies (www.cogtechinc.com), a professional services firm delivering project and program management services, products, and PMO tool implementation to commercial and government clients. Mr. McGraw holds an MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland's University College and a BS in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina. Mr. McGraw is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and is an active member of the Project Management Institute.