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When a project fails, everyone suffers. From the team members who spent valuable time on a wasted effort to the executive sponsoring the initiative, to the customer who was counting on the final deliverable, a failed project is a source of frustration and embarrassment. For a project manager, whose sole responsibility is to ensure projects get completed, the stakes are even higher. A serious project failure can have long-term consequences for a PM, like a loss of professional reputation, or even loss of a job.


Unfortunately, enterprise-level project failures are still a common occurrence, despite recent advances in project management methodologies and technology. Here’s a look at some of the most common causes for enterprise-level project failures, and the best ways to avoid them.

Poorly-Defined Scope

Many projects are doomed from the start by sloppy or incomplete scope documents. Creating a good scope document is a core responsibility of project managers, and should identify project objectives on a high level. If the scope document fails to capture the project’s requirements and responsibilities in sufficient detail, the project manager will be left to create a work breakdown structure and project plan without accurate information. The end result, more often than not, is a failed project. If you are having trouble making sense of your own scope document, chances are that the confusion will carry through the entire project, so take the time to clarify and finalize the document before you move the project forward.

Unrealistic Timelines and Budgets

Few project teams have the luxury of doing their work with ample budgets and comfortable deadlines. Budgetary and timeline pressure are the rule, not the exception, for projects at the enterprise level. Project managers are simply expected to make it work, regardless of limitations. Organizations that stretch their resources too thin, however, are asking for a project management failure. Project managers should always do a sanity check on initial budgets, resource allocations and project timelines, and speak up if they believe the project cannot succeed as proposed.

Ineffective Communication

Good communication is essential for any project to succeed, but as organizations grow and project teams become more complex and dispersed, communication becomes difficult to manage. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for poor project communication: better software. A comprehensive cloud-based project management solution like Clarizen can keep team members informed and in contact, whether they are together in a single office or spread across multiple continents.

Inadequate Technology

Communication isn’t the only reason to upgrade your project management solution. Outdated project management software is an increasingly common cause of project failure. Enterprise level projects involve dozens, sometimes hundreds, of resources, tasks and action items, and there’s simply no way to keep track of all the moving parts without a highly capable project management system. Using old, inflexible PM software can greatly increase the chances that important project details will be overlooked or misunderstood, setting the entire project on the road to ruin.

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Preview: Gartner Market Guide for Adaptive Project Management & Reporting

Pick a PPM solution with the best capabilities to match your unique needs

In the Gartner Market Guide for Adaptive Project Management & Reporting guide, Gartner, Inc. provides recommendations and evaluation criteria for executives and PMO leaders assessing Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions. This guide outlines the adaptive project management and reporting process flow as well as a market review of current providers in the following categories:

  • - Existing pure-play PPM providers
  • - Collaborative work management (CWM) providers
  • - Enterprise agile planning (EAP) providers
  • - Technology Platform providers from other markets

The guide provides insight into how well a product or service fulfills certain functional capabilities – with a forward-looking market direction and analysis provided.

In the report, Gartner, Inc. mentions/states that “by 2024, 50% of all program and portfolio management (PPM) leaders will integrate complementary technologies to enable portfolio decision making and adaptive work management for digital business evolution.”

Clarizen offers a complete solution that connects work across the enterprise, turning ideas into strategies, plans, and action. With Clarizen, organizations can work the way they want to work and have real time visibility across all workstreams in their portfolio. This keeps teams focused on the things that matter, provides the real-time information needed to make more accurate and timely decisions, and delivers results faster to meet and even exceed company goals and customers’ expectations.

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Buyer’s guide to project management software