PRINCE2® methodology with its structured framework and tried and tested methodology has provided project managers with a global language what we can all speak. But…like the old adage goes… you can lead the horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

Similarly, PRINCE2® can supply the framework, but it cannot make organisations live the processes, themes and principles, making some more vulnerable to project failure.

So, what is a project failure? What are the causes and how can following PRINCE2® effectively help to prevent it.

A project failure: A project is considered a failure when it has not delivered the products or benefits that are required, either because these were not laid out effectively in the first place or because the requirements have changed but the business case has not. Generally, success factors are adherence to cost, timescales and quality specifications.

Here, we look at the recent AXELOS benchmark report* and unpick the 5 top reasons why, according to their survey, projects tend to fail:

1. Over ambitious timeframes – one of the key specifications of the PRINCE2® Business Case is the time with which the project is expected to be delivered. There can be many reasons why this does not happen. Lack of stakeholder understanding can be a big factor in unachievable timescales, often led by lack of distinction in the business case (or lack of business case at all).

AXELOS benchmark report says: ”Where 59% of project managers found themselves managing a project that could not be delivered in the timeframe, nearly half (47%) expected project failure.”

The business case records the reasons, costs and expected benefit for a project. This includes the timescales which need to be agreed by all in the project before we start-up. It may seem obvious but many projects are undertaken every day without ever having a solid business case.

PRINCE2®: “No PRINCE2® project starts without a Business Case. The Executive is responsible for ensuring the project aligns to strategic goals and that there is sound business rationale. Timescales are reviewed at delivery, stage and project level and any deviations from the allowable tolerance set on time is escalated up to the next level, potentially going all the way up to management board if necessary.”

Click here to download the PRINCE2® business case template

2. Changing project brief/ expectations - Projects have a start and an end but this does not mean that, due to unforeseen circumstances they do not evolve in their lifecycle. Where these  changes are not managed in and comunicated effectively and the business case is not updated in line, projects can fail. To help with this, PRINCE2® recommends project assurance.

AXELOS benchmark report reveals: “56% of project managers have witnessed significant changes to the project brief and expectations and this led to project failure in 48% of cases.”

PRINCE2®: “Project Assurance is essential to a PRINCE2® project. PRINCE2 Project Assurance is an ongoing audit with accurate information reported to the project board. This keeps the project properly scrutinised. You wouldn’t plan a financial merger without a financial audit. Yet, so many projects have operated without an assurance audit. The latest report from PMI suggests organisations are smartening up to this.”

3. Poor communication - Communication is essential in keeping all stakeholders in the loop. If stakeholders are kept well informed and are given a sound understanding of the value of the project, they will remain interested, when they remain interested it can provide the kudos required to ensuring that the project remains viable.

AXELOS benchmark report says: “In 51% of cases the risks were not properly understood and consequently, affected failure in 44% of projects.”

PRINCE2®: Communication Management Strategy – A document that describes the most suitable way which you will communicate your project outcomes to the wider team and its stakeholders. This may even differ from person to person (especially when considering business seniority).

4. Lacking the right people for the task – lack of definition in roles and responsibilities can often be a reason for project failure. People are sometimes not sure what it is that they are meant to be doing and so certain tasks go under the radar, or too many people are focusing on the same things, wasting resources.

AXELOS says: “Half of project managers felt their project didn’t have the right people in place, which led to failure in 43% of cases.”

PRINCE2®: Defined Organisation Structure: PRINCE2® defines clear roles and responsibilities. Each team member is assigned a role or roles right at the start of the project. This means that all team members understand their tasks and responsibilities and commit to them from the outset.

5. Unrealistic budgets: A key success factor in a project is of course it’s cost, and while value should be aspirational, it also needs to be achievable! So many projects are doomed to failure from the start by undercutting on the cost reality. In this competitive landscape organisations are at even greater risk of doing this than ever before.

AXELOS; Unrealistic budgets have been cited as one of the most significant issues complicating the lives of project managers today.

PRINCE2®: The Business Case sets out the budget from the very beginning and larger projects will also have their own ‘change budget.’ In the PRINCE2 Business Case the project needs to be (and stay) ‘desirable, viable and achievable’ throughout the project.

In conclusion, no method can ever completely eradicate project failure but using PRINCE2® can significantly enhance your chances of success. Projects In a Controlled Environment, that’s what PRINCE2® stands for. Some environments need more control than others. The fact that this level of control can be tailored to suit a very fast paced agile environment right up to a highly regulated environment that makes it an extremely beneficial project management approach.

The PRINCE2® method isn’t a strict “how-to” guide that has to be adhered to at all times. Instead it can be tailored to the needs of your project and business. It can be used for projects of any size and type.

If you would like to talk with an advisor about how PRINCE2® training can increase your chances of project success then we’d be happy to chat with you.

If you would like to register for a FREE 90 minute PRINCE2 overview session on our ONLIVE virtual classroom platform then please click here Each session is worth £99 but you can attend absolutely free!


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