Project success is usually determined by the production of the deliverable, the meeting of all project constraints and the satisfying of the customer. The production of the deliverable is measured against the requirements that have been approved for the project.
One therefore tends to assume that if all the above is true the project should be deemed to be successful. Yet many a failed project is completed in keeping with requirements but is deemed a failure mainly because the project as conceived did not satisfy the objectives for which it was undertaken. Often therefore the customer’s satisfaction is short lived as having celebrated victory they recognize that the problems persist.
This is especially true of many Information Technology projects. Project failure in Information Technology projects is often because the requirements are sometimes done by top personnel in the organization without proper input from the end users. Often basic requirements are therefore missing and there is the need to do major adjustments before the need can be satisfied. This brings to the fore the need for proper project identification and selection. Project deliverables must tie to the achievement of strategic goals and in particular the objectives of the project.
The Trinidad and Tobago Situation re Project Failure
In Trinidad and Tobago one of the causes of project failure is poor design. What this means is that the project as conceived cannot achieve the objectives set. There therefore has to be major variations in order to achieve the objectives with the result that there are cost overruns.
The Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector in Trinidad and Tobago at 12 of its executive summary discussed the issue of incomplete designs as follows:
Incomplete designs, and variations: Issue (111)
12 Incomplete designs, design changes, variations, poor supervision and poor management are closely linked to Issue (11) above and the general subject of management. While some degree of variation to the original work scope can be regarded as inevitable under any substantial construction project, we firmly reject the suggestion (made by NIPDEC) that the letting of contracts with a design known to be incomplete provides any advantage to the employer.
Authorization of Projects
As you design projects you have to be mindful of the fact that projects are authorized for any or all of the following reasons:
• To resolve a problem– This requires that tools such as problem tree analysis and fish bone analysis are used to get to what are the root causes of the problem. There must be input from key stakeholders, especially those experiencing the problem. Only so can a project be chosen which will resolve the problem.
• To exploit an opportunity – This requires an analysis of opportunities available to determine the one that you can best exploit
• Satisfy a legal requirement – These projects are compulsory but time should be spent determining what the law requires you to do and the best cost effective way of complying with the requirement
• Satisfy a need– Determine whether the issue being addressed represents needs or wants. A proper needs assessment should be done.
Importance of Needs Assessment as one of the means of avoiding project failure
Needs assessment is important in defining good project ideas and to allow for proper consideration of the many issues involved in project formulation. You should put together a team to plan and implement the needs assessment. The goal of the needs assessment, i.e., what is to be learnt from or achieved or determined by the needs assessment given available resources, should be clear. Remember to identify the audience whose needs you are trying to satisfy. Involvement of these persons and other key stakeholders is critical to the success of the needs assessment. Remember also that government is a stakeholder in all projects and there is the need to determine the requirements of the relevant government agency. Always examine also social and financial factors and ensure alignment of the option(s) chosen to satisfy the objectives with the company’s strategy.
Be vigilant in data collection, analysis and determination of findings. Use the findings to point yourself in the right direction for developing, refining, and implementing your overall program plan and individual projects.
Results of a lack of a Needs Assessment
Lack of needs assessment can lead to problems of:
• Improper planning and budgeting of procurement
• Inadequately stated requirements
• Missing requirements
• Inappropriate choice of procurement and procurement procedures
• Insufficient time frame.
• Poor selection of contractors
• Project failure – i.e a failed project
The way forward if you find yourself having to implement a poorly designed project
If you are a project manager who has been hired to implement a poorly designed project, you must conduct your own analysis to determine what, if any design changes are necessary and put this to your management and state what are the possible implications of implementing a project that will fail. This may result in further discussions by management with the client and the saving of the project and satisfaction of its objectives.