The Most Valuable Survey Data on the Causes of Project Failure

Every year, the Project Management Institute (PMI) conducts a survey and publishes a report, bringing to light the global state of project management and causes of project failure. The 2016 report – titled The High Cost of Low Performance – is valuable as always, containing PMI’s analysis of survey results from nearly 3,000 project, program, and portfolio managers across a diverse collection of industries.

What PMI discovered about project outcomes is somewhat surprising: Project success is at a 4-year low.

Compared to 2012, fewer projects were completed on time and within budget per the 2016 survey. Fewer met the original project goals or intent. Scope creep has increased – as has the percentage of projects that are deemed out-and-out failures.

Causes of Project Failure
PMI’s Pulse of the Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance, 2016. 

The negative changes are relatively small mathematically, but they beg the question: With all our efforts to improve project delivery practices – not just project management, but also architecture, business analysis, development, and operational practices – how can this be true?

PMI goes on to note that these poor project outcomes cause significant financial pain, writing: “We see US$122 million wasted for every US$1 billion invested due to poor project performance, a 12 percent increase over last year.” These research results paint a sad picture of stalled progress for enterprises today.

In the report, PMI shares its perspective on the importance of project management maturity in improving project outcomes. But as important as project management is (and as a long-time project manager, I value that competency greatly), I found the most valuable survey data in the report’s appendix, where PMI shares an important chart all business and technology leaders should heed.

Causes of project failure? Business-IT alignment is (still) to blame.

When asked to pick the top three causes of project failure, four of the top five “winners” are all about the all-too-familiar, long-lived challenge of business-IT alignment.

Projects fail because teams can’t keep pace with changing organizational priorities (41%) and project objectives (38%). They’re trying to execute projects without a clear vision or goals (31%). And they continue to struggle to define requirements accurately (37%).

Causes of Project Failure

PMI’s Pulse of the Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance, 2016.

So, to understand why projects continue to fail despite our best efforts, we must first figure out how to close that pesky gap between business and IT. How do we seamlessly align them to collaboratively deliver products and services and fluidly pivot as a team when business needs change?

That’s a nut companies have been trying to crack for decades. And apparently, based on PMI’s survey results, it should remain a top priority. Not only will it drive improved project success, it’s essential to enabling true business transformation.

A sincere “thank you” to PMI for making this valuable research available to all.

How Blueprint Helps

Blueprint offers enterprise-level technology to support business-IT alignment through collaborative planning and requirements management, the ability to easily manage the impact of change, and seamless integration with tools across the application lifecycle.

For more information or a product demo, please contact us today.

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