Recovering from failed Projects

Published by Dan Lowe on

Here at RAW Technologies we have picked up several previously-failed projects and helped our clients turn them into successes. Projects fail for all types of reasons, key personnel may leave, specifications may change, budgets could be cut and many other stumbling blocks.

It’s not unusual for a project to hit a road bump or change the scope from the original plan, however in some cases, there may be a combination of problems or launch may not go to plan. It’s important to stop and take stock of what really has gone wrong. It’s important not to scape-goat or throw babies out with the bathwater during this process.

Here’s 3 of our tips for Recovering from a Failed Project.

Stop, Evaluate and Listen.

Project failures are naturally stressful times within a business. For that reason, it’s important to listen to and evaluate everyone who played a role in the project. You can’t do that while you’re still fighting fires left and right, so where possible you must pause the project.

Projects predominantly fail for human reasons more than any other however that doesn’t exonerate the technical decisions and platforms that have been used. Both aspects need scrutiny. It’s important to revisit the technical decisions and confirm that they still apply, does the technology solve the problem adequately? Was the technology “sold” with promises that haven’t materialised? Is this an implementation problem or is it a fundamental mismatch? Oftentimes you will want to get some outside impartial advice on this matter, it’s hard for people involved in the project to be impartial as it may benefit them to blame or exonerate the technology.

On the human side, one issue we often encounter is priorities not being managed correctly. This causes deadlines to be missed and key features being released flawed. This could be a project management issue, or it could be that priorities are changed faster than the team can respond. The scope of projects could be ballooned as senior staff try to make it solve problems for them that it was never designed to do. Again, this is tricky to self-evaluate but is none-the-less vital. Team questionnaires and interviews can and should be conducted, making the process as inclusive and productive as possible is the ideal.

Work Out What Caused the Project to Fail

So you’ve heard from each party and looked again at the technological solution. It’s time to work out why this project hasn’t gone to plan, we’re not looking to scape-goat but to identify changes in approach that will allow the product to succeed.

There are almost certainly multiple factors at play, some may or all may not be in the control of the project manager/team. Some may be controllable. Often many “quick fixes” implemented along the way may have fixed the immediate issues in front of the team at the time, but have long-lasting consequences not realised until other aspects start failing.

From here you want to develop findings, these should be broken down into Threats (future bad news for the project), Opportunities (future good news for the project) and Problems (existing bad news for the project for the project). Once you have done this, you’ll have a list of controllable and non-controllable factors that are preventing your project from completing succesfully. That must mean it’s time to..

Make Meaningful Change

Once the above is collated it must be reported back to stakeholders and decisions must be made. What’s important is that these decisions makes real change to the project. If you don’t follow through on real change, you’ll end up doing the same again with likely the same result.

Using a third-party

We have helped businesses recover their projects, and through doing so built strong relationships and flexible work attitude that allows us to find perfect solutions to match the client. Some of our clients prefer us to take complete project management control, while others prefer a collaborative approach. The most important factor is that everyone is comfortable as teams will be working closely to launch projects.

Being a third-party means we are objective and our only goal is to make the project succeed. If you’re experiencing a project that isn’t going to plan, give us a call on 0191 607 0750.


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