The Top 10 Causes of Project Management Failures

Updated on Mar 11th, 2024

causes of project management failures

The particulars of successful project management are dicey, for the given advancements in technology and lesser time on hand in almost every case. All this can be retraced to prime causes of project management failures, apart from the ones we are here to discuss today. It is a journey of its own, to get a project from start to finish, and the job remains on the shoulders of a project manager. 

“Project management poses a lot of challenges in the current scenario, especially with increasing competition and typically, as a race against the others. The risks involved are more significant, while the yield in terms of profits is dicey, and making it big is so much more complicated than, say, 5 years ago.” says, Mr. Madhusudan Singh (VP- Production, Matellio Inc.).

With a lot at stake, there is a vital need to understand what can cause project management failures and how we can address them the best. 

“The top challenges of project management, according to me, are undefined project scope, inefficient and unreliable teams, risk identification and mitigation, communication, and expectations management. At Matellio, we devise various methods to address these challenges and ensure that we deliver best software along with great customer experiences.”, Madhusudan adds. 

But what are these solutions? To get into details, we reached out to Madhusudan’s expert team of project managers and understand better. 

Project Definition challenges

1.Undefined Goals

Challenge: When goals are not clearly identified, it is harder to direct the team and verify the success. As project managers, the most challenging fight is to make requirements close-ended, as almost every time, the customer comes with open-ended requirements. 

What is the procedure to follow for defining goals? How to ensure we know all the requirements of the client before starting the project?

Bharat Paryani (Director- Mobile Development, Matellio)>> Multiple calls and requirement gathering sessions with customers, documenting goals on text, graphs, images, etc., and getting a sign off from the client.

Shailendra Singh (Project Manager)>> Initial understanding based on the flow of the project and making sketches for more clarity. 

Ashok Bhati (Project Manager) >> Initial SOW provides only limited scope, to gather complete requirements as mentioned by Bharat, we need Multiple calls and sessions with customers, working on designs, DFD, SRS, and finally getting approval on everything from the client. It not only ensures that Matellio and customers are on the same page, but any missing Inputs/Features can be added by Matellio, thus creating a Post-Sales opportunity for Matellio and an enhanced/better experience for the client.

Wasim Gouri (Project Manager)>> Based on SOW, we create a list of pages along with the data or fields to show on that page. Discuss that with the client over multiple calls and get it approved after making necessary changes.

Amresh (Senior Solution Architect, Matellio Inc.)>> Goal must be clear and well defined. Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. It should be time-bound. I don’t think we can know all the customer’s requirements, but yes, we can get closer to it. For that, we should know a deep understanding of business and problems.

2. Scope Changes (or Scope Creep)

Challenge:Project management, developers, customer, etc. allowing the scope to extend beyond the original objectives. Creeping or expanding the scope requires ground-level rework and replanning in most cases, and that can lead to tighter or pushed deadlines.

How do you manage if the scope of a project changes? Or the technology we are working on has a new version or update? 

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give. 

Bharat >> Creating change request documents and keeping clients well informed. This is possible if the initial scope document is precise and detailed.

Ashok >> Sometimes major changes are provided at once, while others in small batches. So Initial SRS is versioned with Change and getting Approval on them. A change document is always there either in the form of Versioned SRS or a separate document. The problem arises when clients ask for a lot of small changes, and on a frequent basis, as it leads to confusion and gaps in both Matellio and Client’s understanding.

Amresh >>  In Agile, we are open to it. So design your project loosely coupled with future scope. Keep the concept of versioning in your project.

Team Related Challenges

3. Inadequate Skills/Staff

Challenge: Sometimes, the project requires skills the team doesn’t possess, or there is insufficient staff. This is one of the major issues which can arise at many points within the project lifecycle, and it requires a lot of attention from the project managers. 

The team members can leave at any time; how do we manage this situation apart from hiring new employees?

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give. 

Bharat >> Keeping additional resources informed at least a high-level idea of the project and architecture.

Ashok >> Escalating it to top management and Book additional resources in Advance. Sometimes it may lead to another problem i.e., convincing clients.

Wasim >> Providing KT to other available resources.

Amresh >>  Build parallel resources.

4. Lack of Accountability

Challenge: Team members not taking responsibility for their role in achieving success. Finger-pointing and avoiding blame are unproductive for every type of project. At one point, a project manager’s job is to provide a better pathway for the employees. 

How do we distribute responsibilities among team members? Does it help in the real-world scenario or not?

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give. 

Bharat >> I feel we already have the clear responsibility assigned to team members like who writes stories, who execute, who test, etc., so not sure about this one.

Ashok >> Responsibilities are assigned during Sprint Planning, and each team member knows his/her part in advance. They know in advance the QA Release date and Client Release date. Adding a Team-Leader to a team is always a healthy Mix.

Amresh >>  Distribution of responsibilities depends on resource’ skill sets, experience, domain knowledge, and most important his or her responsibility to the work.

Dealing with Risk

5. Improper Risk Management

Challenge: Measuring and weighing the unknowns and items that we have little to no control over. As the scope of the project expands, so do the risks involved. There are risks for everything, there could be new technologies down the line or even change in global market scenarios. 

What tools or analytics do we use to calculate the possible risks, and how do we plan to mitigate them if the worst happens?

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give. 

Bharat >> This is more of a manual process where SME is asked to analyze or figure out the challenging part and assign someone to research on it. This should be done at the start of the project to avoid challenges during the execution. The client should be well informed about the challenges and what is possible and what is not.

Amresh >>  It depends on the risk type. But detection of risk is one common factor in each risk type. Early detection gives you more control over planning and resolution.

6. Ambiguous Contingency Plan

Challenge: Without a contingency plan, you will have no way to address risks and plan ahead for them. Making a contingency plan is in no way an easy task, everything going in and out of it requires utmost planning and an eye for detail. 

What are the major components of the contingency plans we make, and how do we ensure it works in all possible scenarios?

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give.

Bharat >> A top to bottom level contingency plan works for some projects, while the opposite works for others. We decide on it based on the particulars of a project and make sure it works in all possible scenarios.

Ashok >> Different projects have different challenges. Whenever such Challenges present themselves, we escalate and discuss with top management, and they make sure that we smoothly sail out.


7. Poor Communication

Challenge: Without good communication, teams don’t know what to do, customers don’t know what to expect, and situations escalate from minor issues to full-blown project failures. This lies as one of the most important aspects of a project’s success/failure and is often tough to deal with, especially with large team sizes. 

In today’s world, Agile is the way to go, but how to improve communication on the ground level and between the team members?

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give. 

Bharat >> Daily calls and sync are required to remove communication blockers. The scrum master should facilitate all the communication to remove any such issues.

Ashok >> As mentioned above by Bharat Sir, Daily Stand up meetings are done to make sure team members are in sync with each other.

Amresh >>  Push everyone to speak about their problem/status with the customer/team.

Expectations Management

8. Impossible Deadlines

Challenge: Constantly setting unachievable goals quickly leads to declining morale and productivity. While the client might want the project delivered in a particular time window, it is the project manager’s job to get it done the right way. 

What all should be taken into consideration when setting project delivery deadlines. How to set deadlines for tasks in the project life cycle?

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give. 

Bharat >> Challenges, impediments, resource bandwidth, capability. 

Ashok >> Make Sure resource availability is there, Proper Communication with the team considering all the RoadBlocks/Challenges and accordingly set up plans.

Amresh >>  Resource availability, Technology limitation, Research work.

9. Resource Deprivation

Challenge: Resources are stolen along the way, or the staffing may have been inadequate, to begin with. One of the biggest tasks in project management is getting the resources right and using them so that the project is never compromised. But as we know, it is only said, then actually doing it in the real world, but we do have a solution for this.

How to manage resources for a particular project, especially when resources are scarce or extremely limited(for many technologies) in the current market scenario?

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give. 

Amresh >>  Plan work according to limited availability only. In this approach, you need to compromise with delivery.  

Bharat >> There is no real solution for it, but many times the project manager can step in given they have the appropriate skill. The project should be planned with the market scenario in mind, and a future hire for the said technology can be expected in the plan. 

10. Stakeholder Engagement

Challenge: Disinterested team, client, CEO, or vendor can destroy the project, and it all falls upon the shoulders of the project manager. Managing the project involves keeping stakeholders engaged, and let’s find out how our project managers do so. 

How to keep all stakeholders engaged, from board to client, to team members and the rest of the people playing their part in a particular project? 

Let’s hear the solution our project managers have to give. 

Bharat >> Following agile / scrum framework properly is the answer. Various meetings like sprint planning, review, and retrospective, if appropriately done should keep everyone engaged and well informed of all the situations and status. 

Ashok >> I would agree with Bharat on this. It is very important to make sure Agile methodology is being properly followed.

Amresh >>  Process should be followed.

“The importance of project management cannot be overstated. An effective project management is not only vital for our success but also to ensure that products we deliver address client’s goals and challenges while helping them make a mark in the industry. At Matellio, our project management teams are well-trained to address every vulnerability at its core for better stability and quality.” Madhusudan concludes. 

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