You’ve spent your time and effort spearheading an IT project. Three months have gone by and you’ve spent too much money, you’re weeks behind schedule, and your team is still confused about their responsibilities. Does this sound familiar? A study by the Standish Group revealed that only 29% of IT project implementations are considered successful, while 19% are considered complete failures. In order to turn your losses into wins, you need to first understand what went wrong. 

Here are some of the top culprits that lead to project failure:

Unclear goals 

One of the biggest pitfalls in project management is the lack of clear and concise goals. If you are unable to define the problem you are trying to solve and translate that into a set of objectives your team is working towards, it will be impossible to establish the importance of the project. Clear goals also make it clear what “success” should look like in the end. 

How to fix it: 

The first step is to clearly define the business objectives of your project: Determine what problem you are trying to solve and the desired outcomes. Create goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely—then begin communicating your plan to the team. 

Include all relevant stakeholders and SMEs in the meetings to establish the project requirements. After providing all of the context around the project to your team, you need to delegate roles and responsibilities and establish your timeline. Setting and communicating clear, achievable goals will help you and your team structure your plans, center the focus on solving your business problem, and allow you to measure the success of your project. 

Lack of buy-in

Buy-in is crucial to your success. A lack of buy-in likely means stakeholders do not understand the validity of your project, which might result in the loss of your team’s support, sense of urgency, and focus. This in turn can result in longer timelines, disjointed communication, and the inability to receive necessary resources. Without support, you may run into an issue that is even more acute: pushback from your team and execs. 

How to fix it: 

The project manager needs to gain buy-in from all relevant stakeholders. Be sure your project ladders up to your organization’s overall business objectives—this can help create a sense of urgency and generate buy-in, as well as ensure your team is contributing to the business’s goals in a meaningful way. A report by McKinsey states that shifting mindsets is the biggest roadblock to successful change, and Gartner reveals that 46% of CIOs report that cultural change is the biggest roadblock for change. 

The good news is there are ways to get everyone on board: Gaining vocal support from the executive team, keeping the business goals as your north star, and communicating the anticipated ROI for all involved stakeholders are just three things you can do to secure and keep support. Don’t forget to consider and communicate the risks and costs associated with the plan in order to mitigate possible roadblocks. By being upfront about the things that might go wrong, you show that you’ve thought through every scenario and know how to avoid the concerns that might be contributing to stakeholders’ reluctance.

Unsuitable technology 

Choosing the wrong technology will almost certainly lead to the failure of your project. If your workflows, developing language, tools, or systems are not suited to your business goal, you will not be able to solve the problem at hand. 

How to fix it: 

Before embarking on your project, analyze your existing tech stack, and evaluate which technologies are dated and which can be built upon. You may not need to eradicate your legacy systems, but rather reconfigure your integrations and workflows and build upon the existing infrastructure.

At the end of the day, never forget what the problem at hand is. Select technology and platforms that are best suited to help you reach your goal, and then develop agile processes and workflows that allow for flexibility, scalability, and continuous improvement.  

Want to get advice on how to ensure the success of your project? Join Systematic and get your questions answered by 1,600+ BT professionals.

Mary Hodges
About Mary Hodges

Mary previously worked in IT recruiting and is thrilled to bring her community building skills to the business systems community.