There are times when despite companies’ project management efforts, they fail to achieve the desired results – projects they are running are late and exceed the budget, employees are stressed and overworked, and there are no signs of business growth on the immediate horizon. In the worst-case scenario, improper project/resource management and unresolved problems lead to project failure. 

Want to know what mistakes prevent projects from successful completion in a multi-project environment? Read our blog post to find them out.

Why Do Projects Fail? 

Projects fail when they don’t deliver what was required in terms of time, scope, budget, quality, and aren’t in line with customers’ requirements. This can happen for a number of reasons:

  • Project management mistakes (e.g., poorly planned project work, scope creep, unrealistic expectations);
  • Resource management mistakes (e.g., poor resource planning, improper resource allocation);  
  • External factors (force-majeure circumstances). 

While it’s often impossible to affect external events and their impact on projects, avoiding mistakes that can result in project management disasters is quite in your hands. In this article, we’ll dwell upon the errors that cause failure in multi-project management. Let’s consider them in more detail.

Absence of priorities 

Setting the right priorities across project tasks is a must when you run multiple initiatives simultaneously: every project participant should put effort into the most important work for the moment. Otherwise, there will be bad multitasking, i.e., scrambling between project tasks without understanding which of them matters most. Under such conditions, team members’ productivity will be low and successful delivery of projects will be out of the question. 

Applying inappropriate project management methodology

Orchestration of a multi-project environment is completely different from single-project management, which requires a fundamentally different approach. Also, current economic turbulence and uncertainty in the business environment can’t but affect the way projects should be managed. 

Typical mistakes related to project management methodology involve:

  • Treating projects one by one;
  • Applying deterministic approaches;
  • Leveraging methodologies that don’t take resources’ capacity and availability into account;
  • Relying on traditional deterministic scheduling;    
  • Utilizing outdated and irrelevant project and/or resource management software. 

A multi-project environment is dynamic, uncertain, and highly dependent on resources. What is more, this complexity is intensified by dependencies between projects. So, applying deterministic project planning and scheduling in such an environment will only result in the constant need to replan and reschedule and after all the inability to deliver the desired outcomes. Similarly, if you pay insufficient attention to resource availability and capacity, it can result in resource shortages and bottlenecks, both of which will cast a long shadow on the success of multi-project management. Finally, effective resource management and fruitful work on projects will be impossible without robust resource management tools or PPM software. 

A lack of resource capacity planning 

Resources are the most valuable asset of any project. But in a multi-project environment, this statement gains even more importance: people are involved in several (or more) projects simultaneously, and their work can make or break the success of all the initiatives. 

So, first of all, a resource manager has to make sure that all the current and upcoming projects are staffed with the required people – i.e., plan resources’ capacity. If it’s not planned properly in advance, it may turn out that the resource demand exceeds the available supply. 

A lack of required project resources will lead to the following problems:

  • Cost overrun: a lack of resources to staff projects will result in unbudgeted expenses; 
  • Overwhelmed employees: an alternative to hiring new people can be increasing the amount of work assigned to the available team members. 
  • Project delays: either hiring new people or waiting for critical team members to become available will extend a project’s duration.  

In the worst-case scenario, if there aren’t enough employees to deliver the estimated scope of work, and it’s impossible to hire them quickly enough, the probability of project failure increases exponentially.

Read more: Resource Capacity Planning: What, Why, and How

Poor resource allocation 

Assigning resources to multiple projects is a real challenge. In a multi-project environment, this process is always accompanied by a number of difficulties, e.g., resource conflicts when employees are required for several projects at the same time; uneven workload distribution, when some team members are overloaded, while others are idle; a lack of resources with necessary skills to complete project tasks, and more. At the same time, it’s the basis for fruitful project work. If resources are improperly allocated, it will result in the following issues:

  • reduced productivity as a result of inappropriate workload or a mismatch between team members’ skills and the tasks assigned to them;  
  • resource shortages and the need to hire more people instead of optimizing the utilization of the existing employees.

When unmanaged, these problems will lead to the inability to deliver the work within the planned project budget and timeline.

Read more: 4 Tips on Efficient Resource Allocation in a Multi-Project Environment

Centering around projects, not resources

One of the typical mistakes in a multi-project environment is paying closest attention to task deadlines and monitoring the projects’ progress and at the same time ignoring what’s going on at the resource level. Monitoring resource performance is so important because the root causes of problems at the project level appear first at the resource level. For example, if you have a bottleneck at the resource level, there will be no signs of it at the level of projects. But when the problem appears on the project level, it will be much more difficult or even impossible to address it and prevent this initiative from failure.

Read more: Tracking Performance: Switching from Project to Resource Level

Improper workload management 

Control over employees’ workload is one of the important components of efficient resource management. In other words, it’s about making sure that the team members are neither overloaded nor idle and show high productivity levels. Improper workload management can lead to disappointing outcomes. 

  • Missed deadlines.

If a team member can’t cope with his or her work on time on a regular basis, don’t be hasty in considering him or her incompetent or inefficient. The problem can be caused by excessive workload.  

  • Low productivity. 

Both under- and overloaded employees are disengaged and inefficient. While it’s quite clear with idle team members, it may seem that the overloaded ones can deliver more. But it’s a delusion, especially in the long run. On the contrary, an overloaded employee can cause serious problems to the whole project environment, e.g., he or she can make mistakes that require rework, which will lead to delays. But what is worse, an overworked team member can become a bottleneck that hampers their colleagues’ work. As a result, they will become idle and then turn into bottlenecks, too. Needless to say that this situation will prevent resources from efficient work and won’t contribute to achieving desired project outcomes.        

As we see, all of the above-mentioned factors are interdependent and centered around the proper management of resources. Now that you know the main reasons for project failure in a multi-project setting, you may wonder how you can prevent these mistakes and what resource management software can assist you.  

This will be the topic of our upcoming blog post. So, don’t miss our updates to learn how to ensure the successful delivery of every project running in a company.