Factors influencing the success or failure of large scale projects Introduction
Projects can be difficult to plan and manage. Even with a good plan there is no guarantee that the project will be successful. As the scale of the project gets larger the complexities involved in managing it increase and the likelihood of failure increases. Very large scale projects, like the ones I am reporting on involve many internal and external factors which can contribute to the success or failure of the project. Many large scale projects carried out by government are failures, even though they may eventually deliver what was expected. The failure is often in terms of timescale, costs or system errors. These factors may be internal to the project, such as the skills of the team working on the project, or external, such as the business changing in such a way that the project becomes irrelevant to the current needs. The Standish Group are a well known organisation in project management and in a report published in 1994 (Chaos: charting the seas of information technology) they said that: • • • 16.2% of projects were successful (on budget and on time) 52.7% were challenged (completed and operational, but over budget, over time and offering fewer features than originally agreed) 31.1% were project impaired (cancelled)
Their 2001 report showed that lessons were being learned and that the percentage of projects which were in the successful category had gone up to 28%. This is still very limited success. The majority of these were small projects, within a 6 month time scale and with up to 6 staff directly involved Many studies have been carried out as to what makes the project successful or a failure. Below are some of the success factors and some of the failure factors.
When the user is involved from the beginning of the project the project team will be getting input from the people who are going to be most affected by the system that is being built. The project team can use their experience and knowledge to help in setting out what is expected, what is useful and can use their feedback as the project progresses to find out whether what is wanted is Page SF2
being delivered. Without user involvement people are likely to be hostile to the project because people fear change.
Support from the management is essential if a project is to succeed. The management have to agree with the project and they have to support it with money and personal commitment. Managers are often busy people and unless they support a project it is unlikely that they will put the time and effort in to make it succeed or that their staff will.
Skilled experienced project managers and staff
A successful project needs project managers who can manage the project well. It also need to have staff who have the right mix of skills to do all the jobs that are needed.
Everybody involved in the project needs to know exactly what they will get out of the project, what needs to be put into the project, who will be doing what, when it will happen, how much it's going to cost and so on. These clear expectations about everyone involved to matter whether the project is going to be successful or not.
Well defined scope
This is one of the most important factors in a successful project. The scope of the project shows exactly what will be done and what the boundaries of the project are. It will also show what other systems the project has to communicate with. Many government projects which are subject to project ‘creep’ fail in the end because the scope has not been successfully defined. For example, a system that is designed to hold customer records is being developed. During development is decided it will also deal with customers bills, that these will be dealt with over the Internet etc. The functionality for this has to be built and this will affect timescales.
Clear statement of requirements...
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