Reasons why web projects fail

A key step in successfully closing a project is to review your lessons learnt log. All projects may be unique. However, points of failure can be assessed using the same generalities.

All of my projects have never run to the original plan. They have, however, all met (and often exceeded) the business requirements. A key reason for this is that in my planning and executing a project, I proactively avoid some of the most common problems. Understand this and the dice is already loaded in your favour!

Some common problems to look out for:

Planning upfront
Incomplete project plan
Requirements gathering
Scope creep
Shifting landscape
Communication

 

Planning upfront

This is probably the most common problem. If you have ever been on a troubled project, chances are you looked back and said "We should have spent more time planning." Projects that start execution without fully understanding the work to be done (and getting the sponsor to agree) are usually destined for problems. By the time you realise that you are not in synch with your sponsor, it's usually very difficult to get back on track within the allocated budget and timeframe.

Solution

Spend most of your time planning the project. Get very close to your senior users and suppliers to fully understand their requirements. And make sure you keep your project board fully informed.

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Incomplete project plan

Your project plan is the roadmap that describes how you are going to complete the work. You'll have problems if your work plan is at too high a level, incomplete or not up-to-date. You may get away with it on a small project, but it will be fatal on a larger effort.

Solution

I tend to chunk projects into manageable time-boxes. The further away the time-box, the more you can afford to be high level. I also tend to have separate project plans for significant parts of the project and then link these to a master plan.

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Requirements gathering

There are many opportunities for a project to run into problems once started. Lot of these failures can be down to unclear and incomplete requirements definition, change of technology or not being aware of the wider picture of the project. If problems occur towards the end of the project, you may have no choice but to do whatever is required to push the project to completion.

Solution

Assuming that your requirements are accurate and your project runs into problems, then group problems into actionable chunks and adjust your project accordingly. Remember that some things will be out of your direct control but you can influence the outcome.

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Scope creep

This is the ultimate killer. In all my projects this has happened! This will manifest itself in the form of simple scope creep where items of scope are politically, accidentally or otherwise inserted into your project without evaluating the effect on budget or schedule.

Solution

Nail down the project deliverables with your project board. If you then need to change the scope, go through a change control process and get the new project plan approved.

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Shifting landscape

The business won’t stand still until your project is complete, so be aware that while your project is the most important thing today, it may not be tomorrow. Business priorities will also change without notice.

Solution

Keep close to your sponsor. He is someone that can help keep you in the loop with strategic direction and you can both work together to ensure your project remains the highly anticipated ‘thing’ in your organisation. On short projects you may not need to check for strategic alignment, on longer ones you absolutely will.

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Communication

This is the number one cause of many failed or less than successful projects. As a project manager, make sure that everyone is on the same page, all the time.

Solution

Have a MARCOM plan and make sure you use it! Constantly validate and revalidate with owners, stakeholders and your users. In my opinion, you can never communicate scope, schedule and budget enough so make it part of your weekly status report.

As a people person, I love to walk the floors and chat to my team, peers, users and suppliers. Building strong relationships is a critical success factor for my projects.

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