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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.

David Goulden
David is a Product Director in Clarizen's Solutions Team. With over 15 years of experience working with startup technology teams and their customers, he joined Clarizen several years ago in the Customer Success team working with some of Clarizen's largest companies in the media, IT and financial services industries and authored some of Clarizen's most popular apps. David currently owns Clarizen's IT use case initiative and is responsible for taking Clarizen's Apps Marketplace to the next level. David has an MSc in Analysis, Design and Management of Information Systems from London School of Economics.