Understanding Why Projects Fail

New survey reveals that professional qualifications are not enough to secure project or programme success

…Emotional Intelligence continues to be a major oversight for organisations…

Changescope, the bespoke coaching, mentoring and training company, has released findings from a survey that highlights the key reasons for project or programme failures.  The audit also presents key areas that CIOs and senior IT managers believe are their biggest challenges in 2014 when managing complex projects.

The study, which questioned 100 senior IT managers and directors with project or programme responsibilities, across businesses from a variety of industry sectors, showed that five key factors contribute to the project failures.  This includes the “Lack of clear objectives” at the start of the process (66 percent); “unrealistic deadlines” (58 percent), “poor communications with the team and/or third parties” (45 percent); lack of commitment from senior managers (33 percent); and lack of core skills within the team (30 percent).

The survey also indicated that professional development is taken seriously by this community, with 41 percent citing that they are currently undertaking a professional IT service management qualification such as ITIL, COBIT, ISO 20000; 31 percent citing a professional programme or project management qualification such as PRINCE2, APM, MSP;  and Leadership skills (31 percent). However, only 1 in 5 managers specifically said that they were being trained on “soft skills or emotional intelligence programmes” (19 percent).

Challenges for 2014

Managing complex projects continues to be a challenge for all organisations irrespective of the industry sector that they are operating in. The survey reveals a wide range of concerns such as: “managing complex change with limited resources” (56 percent); working with larger teams in multiple locations or teams in different countries” (42 percent); “skills shortage” (35 percent); Increasing complexity of projects (35 percent); measuring success (30 percent); outsourcing/offshoring (20 percent).

Interestingly many of the issues that are cited as the “biggest challenges” for organisations are intrinsically linked to people issues which may seem to imply that traditional training models are failing to meet the demands of modern businesses. Only one in five organisations (19 percent) stated that the pace of technology change was a concern for them.

Eddie Kilkelly, Managing Director at Changescope, adds, “Globalisation has meant that projects are more likely to cross geographic borders and this creates a number of logistical, language, and cultural issues.  Localised projects can also create their own set of challenges through poor communications. There are specific emotional intelligence skills that chief executives, change leaders and project managers need in order to avoid potentially costly and disruptive failure. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control your emotions and those of employees. It might be called a soft skill, but it can seem hard to introduce due to stereotyping of what it actually means within the context of today’s business environment.”

About the survey

The online survey, entitled ‘understanding why projects and programmes may fail’, was conducted by independent technology market research specialists Vanson Bourne in February 2014. 100+ senior IT managers and directors were surveyed amongst organisations of a workforce of 1001 – 3,000 and 3,000+ in the UK.  The audit was across a number of vertical sectors which included financial services, manufacturing, retail, distribution & transport, business & professional services, and they were equally represented in the 100 interviews.

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