Content author: John Patton, Sirius Project Management Services Manager

Wise investment in key projects is now more important than ever. However, choosing the right project is just the first step. How can you ensure that the project you’ve selected to fund will succeed? A Dynamic Markets survey of 800 IT managers reported by revealed that 62% of IT projects fail to meet their schedules, 49% suffer budget overruns, 47% have higher-than-expected maintenance costs, and 41% fail to deliver the expected business value and ROI. Contact Sirius for more information about our Project Management Services

Industry analysts Gartner and The Standish Group have published statistics that support these findings, indicating that as many as 60-80% of IT-led projects continue to fail. According to The Standish Group, in 2009 only 32 percent of all projects actually succeeded. However, 44% were considered “challenged” because they were late, over budget and/or had less than the required features and functions requested. The remaining 24% were considered “failures” because they were cancelled prior to completion, or they were delivered but never used.

So what are the top ten common causes that lie behind these dismal statistics? The answer may be surprising because they seem like common-sense “do’s and don’ts”:
1. Inadequate communication
2. Poor plans and planning processes
3. Failure to adequately identify, document and track requirements
4. Project managers who are inadequately trained and/or inexperienced
5. Lack of resources
6. Technology illiteracy
7. Poor budget management
8. Poor quality control
9. Lack of sound executive sponsorship
10. Underestimating or ignoring impact of change

If these things are common sense, then why do so many projects fail because of them? Complex projects in particular, involving multiple technologies, can be difficult to complete successfully, which is why IT failure remains a serious issue.

Project success is rooted in a combination of skillfully managing people, processes, and technologies. This perspective may appear obvious, but the experience and wisdom needed to make IT projects successful is often not so common.

Inadequate communication

Depending on the objective and deliverables of a project, a large number of people across the enterprise can be affected. This requires clear and constant communication to all levels of people throughout the organization, so a strong communication strategy is essential.

A Project Manager (with input and assistance from the project team) can lead the development, documentation and implementation of a project communication plan that identifies appropriate audiences, establishes the project communication schedule and manages the flow of information around the project.

A typical communication plan can include, but is not limited to:
• Project status report
• Project risk identification, assessment and management
• Issue and action item reports and management
• Project scope change management
• Project status meetings
• Project kick-off and orientation
• Meeting documentation – agendas, minutes
• Project team roster and contact information
• Project document repository identification and management

At a minimum, three of these communication vehicles are required: status reporting, status meetings, and a document repository.
Since project stakeholders cannot gauge the progress of a project by observation alone, they depend on regular feedback from the project team to know if a project is going well — and if not, why. The Project Manager typically prepares a weekly project status report that is distributed and reviewed by project stakeholders. The status report is intended to provide an overview of the status of major project deliverables that can influence the project’s success.

The project status report often includes the following information:
• General project status
• Accomplishments for the reporting period
• Planned activities for the next period
• Major deliverables/milestones completed
• Major deliverables/milestones in progress
• Issues requiring management attention
• Change requests
• Major project risks
• Major project dependencies
The Project Manager schedules and facilitates regular project status meetings with the project team and project stakeholders. The meeting is not only a tool to track the progress of the project against the plan, but is also used by the project manager to quickly resolve issues or make changes to ensure that deliverables will be successfully completed.

The project status meeting agenda often includes:
• General project status
• Accomplishments for the reporting period
• Planned activities for the next period
• Major deliverables/milestones completed
• Major deliverables/milestones in progress
• Review of issues
• Issues requiring management attention
• Change requests
• Major project risks
• Review of the project plan
• Implementation of corrective actions
Projects are collaborative efforts that can often generate large quantities of documentation throughout the project life cycle. Having a centralized place for collaboration and document sharing is important. Most projects managed by a Sirius project manager include a client engagement portal (CEP) that provides a single, easy access point and central repository where the client can access current or archived information regarding their project anytime and anywhere. The portal provides important statistics on the status or the project schedule, tasks, budget, and any other unique client information. Additional functionality that is provided through the portal includes:
• Team member listings, roles, and contact information
• Project documents
• Risk list
• Action items
• Team calendar
• Discussion boards
• Budget management
• Client satisfaction forms
• Project plan
• Special announcements

Utilization of these simple tools and techniques by an experienced Project Manager will ensure quality, on-time and on-budget service delivery of your important projects.