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When Does Your IT Project Need Rescue?

December 29, 2021 / by Frederid Palacios

Business today is all about working as fast and efficiently as possible while trying to maintain quality. Thanks to the help of technology, companies are able to achieve this pace to some extent, but it is not a guarantee. No matter what tools you have or how many experts are on a team, IT project management is complex, and sometimes projects fail. 

While you should try your best to avoid a project failure, it may not be possible if you are too late in recognizing the signs of a failing project. For this reason, it is critical that you can identify the signs of a project in need of rescue. Such an insight may allow you to turn the project around before it is too late or know when to quit and cut your losses. 

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Signs of Failing Project


Spotting a failing IT project is essential to saving it before it is unsalvageable. If you notice any of these six signs in your current IT project, it may be a sign that it is failing or eventually will. 


1. Missed Milestones

An obvious sign of a project needing rescue is missing milestones and deadlines. For many long-term IT projects, milestones are what keep the project on track to meet its ultimate deadline. If milestones are repeatedly missed, it is unlikely that the project will meet its final deadline on time, if at all. If your project is falling behind schedule so much that you cannot meet deadlines, it is a sure sign that your project is - or will be failing. 


2. Poor Communication

Efficient communication is crucial to a successful project, especially in IT, where team members must coordinate complex systems. Without proper communication, it is challenging for your team to properly collaborate, often resulting in team member misalignment. Misalignment often leads to conflict, and if significant enough, it will lead to a fast failure. 

IT team members and managers should regularly communicate with one another, ensuring that expectations are clear and deadlines are met. Otherwise, even if the project is completed, it may not meet expectations, resulting in wasted time and funding. If your team members are not communicating and thus inconsistent in their contributions, it may be a sign that your project needs help. 


3. Inconsistent/Inefficient Management

Poor communication is often a result of inconsistent or inefficient management. If your project manager fails to communicate expectations, deadlines, and tasks, the odds are that your team members will not be able to do their job well. As such, it’s likely that the project will not be up to par. 

The same holds true if management keeps changing their mind on the project's direction. Inconsistent and conflicting goals make it challenging for team members to stay on track and meet deadlines. It is also crucial that project management and business management remain aligned throughout the duration of the project. If there is any deviation, the project could be at risk of termination. 


4. Lack of Interest

An often overlooked sign of a project in trouble is a lack of interest in the project, whether from team members or stakeholders. If team members are disinterested in the project, they are likely uncommitted as well. This often results in minimal effort and poor engagement, which do not make for a promising project. 

Hand-in-hand with a lack of interest is a lack of focus. If team members are being pulled to other projects or more focused on other tasks, your project will suffer. Without the proper resources, your project will likely fall behind and potentially fail. 


5. No Clear Metrics

Much like milestones, metrics help you keep your project on track and keep team members accountable. If your team lacks clear metrics to evaluate, you may struggle to keep your project on schedule or produce the desired results. If you have no metrics at all, it is near impossible to determine if your project is failing or not. Either scenario is not cohesive to a successful project


6. More Problems Than Solutions

The final sign of a project in need of rescue is if you are experiencing problems with your project faster than you can solve them. Issues within an IT project are inevitable, but it becomes especially concerning when problems are arising at a rate faster than can be resolved. 

If this is the case, it’s likely that your project will quickly fall behind, resulting in overtime work and missed deadlines. At times, the only way to resolve this is to put the project on hold in an attempt to get the project back on track. 


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Rescue or Abandon? 


Once you have identified your project as at-risk of failing, it can be challenging to determine the next step. While you may hope to pull together what you have and present it as a work-in-progress, this will not please management or customers. As such, you have three options if your project has already or will likely fail:

  • Continue working and attempt to save the project.
  • Start the project over entirely.
  • Shut down and abandon the project.

Each option has different consequences for the project, but all result in a missed deadline and wasted time and funding towards the project. Significant considerations should include the magnitude of the project, the impact of the project, and the motivation and possibility of recovery. 

That being said, if the additional costs of rescuing the project are less than the cost of abandoning it altogether, it is worth saving. If this is the case, here are some tips on how you can rescue an IT project in need.


How to Rescue a Project in Trouble


The first step to rescuing a project in trouble is to perform a project assessment. This assessment requires carefully scrutinizing all project aspects, including the project’s performance, deliverables, issues, and overall condition. Once the assessment is complete, you should determine what needs to be changed to save the project, whether it be team members, processes, products, resources, schedule, or any other applicable factor. 

Regardless of what issues were identified and alterations made as a result, there must be a redefinition of the project plan. The new project plan should include new and realistic:

  • Scope
  • Objectives
  • Profits
  • Milestones
  • Deadlines
  • Metrics

The intention of the newly defined project plan should be to correct previous issues and restore confidence in the project. In addition to this, additional approaches to project recovery often include:

  • Mending communication and management conflicts.
  • Solving technical problems.
  • Allocating additional resources.
  • Potentially replacing a project manager. 

Regardless of the methods you choose for project rescue, the primary goal should be to eliminate the root cause of failure and prevent it from occurring again. Again, it is important to remember that while project failure is disappointing and costly, it is not rare. Still, by identifying the signs of a project in trouble, you may be able to rescue your project before it is unsalvageable, saving the further waste of time, money, and resources.


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Tags: Project Management

Frederid Palacios

Written by Frederid Palacios

Fred Palacios is a seasoned software architect with more than 20 years of experience participating in the entire software development cycle across a host of different industries--from automotive and services to petroleum, financial, and supply chain. In that time, his experience working closely with high-level stakeholders has provided him with a strategic vision for developing the right solutions to flexibly meet critical business needs. As CTO of Intertec, he's continuing to focus on the creation of business-critical applications for large enterprise projects, particularly those that handle high concurrency and large datasets. He is passionate about using technology as a tool to solve real-world problems and also mentoring technical teams to achieve their maximum potential and deliver quality software.

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