I’d love to guarantee success to every customer I manage projects for or every client I’ve consulted with. I’d wish I could tell them everything is under control, not to worry, I’ve covered all the bases. Wouldn’t we all? But it’s not possible. Too many things can happen – most are out of our control. By definition, projects are temporary, unique, have goals to meet, multiple tasks to coordinate…sometimes across functional departments and across very diverse organizations, and hopefully have critical impact on a business, organization, industry or customer…depending on the project, of course.
Globally, companies invest billions of dollars annually on IT solutions. In addition, many organizations offer visionary solutions that all call for knowledgeable project managers to plan, execute, control, and end projects ahead of any competition. Sadly, many of these projects come in behind schedule and over budget, and fail. Much of our project management lives are spent dealing with this unsettling projects and working to get them back on schedule, both within budget and within specification. Many projects are canceled before they are ever completed and many exceed their original estimates. The financial costs of these failures and overruns are just the tip of the iceberg. The path of destruction left behind from these projects is devastated budgets, unhappy customers, and sometimes ruined project management careers.
Unfortunately, most projects fail
On the success side, it is commonly cited that more than 50% of all projects fail to some degree. They may be considered a failure by some stakeholders based on one or more of the three key project success determiners: on time delivery, on budget delivery, and customer satisfaction. Some studies suggest that less than 20% of projects are completed on time AND on budget. In the larger organizations, the news is even worse: studies have shown that less than 10% of projects in large companies come in on time AND on budget. And, even when these projects do limp through to completion, they are often no more than mere shadows of their original functional requirements.
Today, when project managers take on a project, they must face the reality that many clients are increasingly aware of how projects must align with business processes and strategy. As a result, these clients expect project managers to be able to translate their requirements into effective implementations. Project managers must be prepared to take charge of the engagement, lead their team through project kickoff and ask the right questions to gain a set of detailed and complete requirements to build a solution upon, and be strong leaders to keep the project customer engaged and contributing to the success of the project.
So what are we looking at? The bottom line is this….success is always in question on projects. We strive for best practices, put our best foot forward from the outset during project planning and project kickoff and head into each project engagement like it’s a brand new day with everything fresh and all the confidence in the world. In reality, it’s almost a guarantee that, to some degree, a compromised solution will be delivered. As project managers, we must take this as a challenge to over perform and over deliver and motivate our project teams to do the same. Today more than ever, we are expected to do more with less and use diverse skill sets to deliver on high-tech projects that are often groundbreaking and career boosting in nature.
Always stay focused on best practices, focus on what the customer needs (not just what they want), and be the strong leader and confident decision-maker that the project requires. Those are the actions that will give us the best opportunity (and chance) to deliver a successful end product to our anxiously awaiting (and paying) project customer.