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How Many Projects Fail?

The following is a curated and reviewed list of the top statistics around Project Failures as of October 2023.

Small Projects (less than $1 million)

Large Projects (more than $10 million)

76% are successfully

10% are successful

20% are challenged

52% are challenged

4% fail

38% fail

  1. 37% of projects fail due to a lack of clear goals.

  2. 47% of Agile developments are late, have budget overruns, or result in unhappy customers.

  3. 77% of high-maturity organisations meet goals, compared to 63% of others.

  4. 34% of organisations complete projects on time,

  5. 36% deliver full project benefits

  6. 34% of projects are completed on budget

  7. 29% of organisations mostly or always complete projects on time.

  8. 43% mostly or always complete projects on budget

  9. 40% of organisations believe they deliver the full benefits of their projects

  10. 67% more project failures are reported by organisations that undervalue project management.

  11. 67% of high-maturity organisations deliver on time, as opposed to 30% of others.

  12. 56% of high-maturity organisations stay within budget, while only 21% of others do the same.

  13. 35% of organisations consider organisational agility as a top factor in achieving future success.

  14. 32% of organisations prioritise choosing the right technologies for success.

  15. 31% of organisations emphasise securing relevant skills for success.


For more information and statistics on project management please see; https://www.iseoblue.com/post/79-project-management-statistics-for-2023


Reasons Projects Fail


In the realm of project management, success and failure often hang in a delicate balance.


Every project, whether small or large, has unique challenges, and the definition of 'failure' certainly needs exploration, as many projects succeed in their delivery, but potentially fail in the benefits realisation.


However, we can identify recurring themes that shed light on why projects fail by examining the statistics and insights from various sources.


Lack of Clear Goals

One prominent theme that emerges is the absence of clear project goals. According to the data, a staggering 37% of projects fail due to this very reason.


Without well-defined objectives, projects become rudderless ships, prone to veering off course. To mitigate this, project managers must ensure that project goals are precise, measurable, and align with the organisation's overall strategic vision.


Budget and Time Overruns

Budget overruns and project completion delays are common issues afflicting both small and large projects.


The statistics reveal that 36% of projects deliver full project benefits, while 34% are completed on time and budget.


To address this, organisations should invest in meticulous project planning, realistic budgeting, and continuous monitoring to make necessary adjustments as early as possible.


Agile Development Challenges

For Agile enthusiasts, it's disheartening to learn that 47% of Agile developments are late, have budget overruns, or result in unhappy customers.


Agile methodologies are designed to enhance flexibility and responsiveness, but their successful implementation requires rigorous adherence to Agile principles and constant communication among team members.


Organisational Maturity Matters

High-maturity organisations fare significantly better in project success rates, with 77% meeting their goals, compared to 63% of others.


Moreover, 67% of high-maturity organisations deliver projects on time, and 56% stay within budget. This underscores the importance of fostering a culture of project management excellence within an organisation.


Developing mature project management processes can significantly improve outcomes.


The Human Factor

Successful projects aren't just about processes and tools; they also depend on people. Securing relevant skills and choosing the right technologies are priorities for 31% and 32% of organisations, respectively.


Adequate training, skills development, and technology choices play pivotal roles in project success. Organisations should invest in their people and make informed decisions about the technologies they employ.


Organisational Agility

Organisational agility is another critical factor highlighted by the data, with 35% of organisations considering it a top factor in achieving future success. In an ever-changing business landscape, the ability to adapt quickly is essential.


Agile organisations are more resilient and better equipped to navigate unexpected challenges.


Valuing Project Management

A telling statistic is that 67% more project failures are reported by organisations that undervalue project management.


This underscores the importance of recognising the pivotal role that skilled project managers play in guiding projects to success. Properly valuing project management as a profession can lead to better project outcomes.


Conclusion


Project failures are not isolated incidents but often result from common themes. By addressing these themes, organisations can improve their project success rates.


Clear goals, meticulous planning, Agile adherence, organisational maturity, skilled personnel, and agility are the cornerstones of project success. As organisations embrace these principles, they can overcome the odds and ensure their projects not only succeed but thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Alan, and have been working within the IT sector for over 30 years.

For the last 15 years, I've focused on IT Governance, Information Security, Projects and Service Management across various styles of organisations and markets.

I hold a degree in Information Systems, ITIL Expert certificate, PRINCE2 Practitioner and CISMP (Information Security Management).

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