Overcoming the Challenges of Delivering Projects on Time and Without Cost Overruns


Why Do 80% of All Projects Fail to Deliver on Time and What can be done About Them

Research shows that nearly 80% of the projects fail to maintain timely completion of deliverables at each stage of the project as well as fail to finish on time.

Project Managers often complain that the Triple Constraint or the Scope, Time, and Cost factors that are interlinked to each other prevent them from completing projects to the satisfaction of their clients who are the external stakeholders and their organizational or internal stakeholders.

While they can justifiably claim that the Clients have increased the Scope or the Scope Creep that leads to more time taken for completion, quality issues often are the reason for delays and this is something that the Project Managers cannot simply pin the blame on their clients.

Indeed, with so many projects running behind schedule, organizations and project managers are often left Scratching Their Heads to find reasons for the delays and Ways to Avoid Them.

Moreover, it is not only the project managers who are under pressure to deliver projects on time, but also the higher-ups in the organisations for whom such delays mean potential loss of business that can significantly impact the organisational bottom-lines.

Scope Creep, Loss of Key Resources, and Types of Project Pricing to Buffer Delays

Projects can be delayed for any number of reasons. Resources who are critical to the success of the project can quit midway leading to a scramble for substitutes who might or might not achieve the same level of performance as the former.

Moreover, as mentioned earlier, there can be changes to the Scope, wherein the clients ask for more requirements midway through the project leading to the project managers having to tweak the schedules to fit the enhanced scope.

In addition, every project manager in conjunction with the marketing and other stakeholders estimates the cost of a project based on various parameters.

If there is a delay caused due to any of the reasons that have been discussed so far, the costs of the project go up and the organisation would have to take a Hit in terms of revenues and profitability if such costs are not absorbed by the clients.

This is where many organisations usually shy away from Fixed Price Projects and instead, insist on At Actual Costs Pricing that shields them from cost overruns. Of course, if you are a favoured vendor for entities such as the Pentagon, you can very well bill at Cost Plus.

The 80/20 Principle, Critical Success Factors and Technology to the Rescue

So, what is to be done to overcome the challenges of delays in the project delivery?

To start with, Project Managers need to adopt cutting edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Analytics to ensure that they have a Grip over the Schedule.

By creating Real Time Dashboards that provide a Micro and Macro view of where projects are headed, Project Managers can identify the Bottlenecks and other reasons for the delays.

Project Management Theory often talks about how Key Critical Success Factors or CSFs have to be addressed to ensure that projects are delivered on time.

To explain, each project hinges on the successful completion of a set of core modules or key deliverables and by targeting these success factors for timely delivery, project managers can very well overcome the challenges of delivering on time.

Moreover, the 80/20 principle which states that 80% of the work goes into creating 20% of the scope means that project managers have to focus on the key deliverables to address reasons for the delays.

As mentioned earlier, AI and Analytics can be used to Predict CSFs that are likely to Delay the Projects and hence, project managers can sense and intuit the reasons.

Committing to Unrealistic Timelines and Some Thoughts on Humane Approaches

Having said that, it is not only the Data Driven Parameters and Variables that are the reasons for the delays. Often, there are external factors at work such as the Marketing Teams committing to Unreasonable and Unrealistic Times as well as the Project Managers Themselves bidding in conjunction with the former.

Indeed, a major reason for delays in the projects is Vendors Promising the Moon to the Clients in order to either bag the project or to enhance the profits.

While this is a global trend since all corporates want profits, the situation is especially rampant in Asian firms with Indian ones being notorious for these practices.

In our working experience, we have come across multiple instances of how Higher-ups in our employers forcing the project managers to commit to deadlines that all of them know are unrealistic.

While it is understandable that they do this in order to survive in a Cutthroat Market, some thought must be given to the teams who execute the project since they are the ones who would slog well into the nights to ensure completion. This is where organisations must adopt a more realistic and more importantly, humane approach so that employees are unburdened.

Buffers When Everyone Knows Delays are Inevitable

Last, projects can fail to deliver on time due to a number of reasons and we have discussed some of them.

While we have listed some solutions, often, it is observed that despite taking all precautions, projects do tend to get delayed and hence, we would like to add that it is better for all stakeholders to accept the inevitability of delays.

The realistic approach would be to create a Buffer that can cushion the projects from huge cost overruns and use some spare capacity as well as slack when the going gets tough and only the tough can survive.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. We are a ISO 2001:2015 Certified Education Provider. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.


Project Management