22nd January 2018

 

The Runaway project

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Introduction

 

This briefing note is intended to provide some background information, reasons and consequences of a runway project. Runaway project is generally a result of scope creep and schedule/cost overruns. It is hoped that recommendations stated on how to turn around a “runaway” project will provide some context for the difficult decisions that need to be taken into account while making turnaround strategy decisions.

 

Various factors such as unclear defined business objectives, failure to engage stakeholders and users, under estimating budget and time resources cause delays in projects. Often the team members and managers tend to mask these details without attracting focus of stakeholders which results in trouble in the execution of the project. If this is not resolved or brought to attention, additional problems arise and cycle of delays continues resulting in wastage of resources and the project time-frame is extended and goes over estimated budget. Projects that undergo such problems are termed as “runaway” projects.

 

Major reason for delay in projects are that the original estimates are never revisited. Revising estimates based on more information received during gathering of requirements is essential. Another reason being that the requirements are never completely identified and understood which causes scope creep when requirements are identified late in the project. There is also a possibility of changing scope as requirements keep changing all along the way. Factors contributing to drive a project into “runaway” are listed below:

Ø  Failure to clean up complex business processes prior to implementing new system

Ø  Requirements management and alignment of the project to business needs

Ø  Unclear roles and responsibilities

Ø  Inadequate or no Project Management methodology

Ø  Poorly designed team structure and work breakdown design

Ø  Failure to engage stakeholders and users effectively

Ø  Lack of communications and training

Ø  Lack of risk management and contingency planning

Runaway projects in an organization result in delays in achieving the project’s goals.

 

A combination of recommendations provides a comprehensive support to recover back the project gone south. This include:

 

Ø  Developing a recovery plan: A wholesome review of current project status is necessary before any corrective actions are suggested or carried out. The review helps to identify the major causes of the problem and the ways to correct the problem. Breaking the remainder of the project into smaller work tasks and achieving those tasks will bring in efficiency. External consultants providing project management services can be hired re-estimating the project and if no recovery is possible, cancellation of the project can also be considered. Re-estimating the project budget and schedule during recovery efforts by using proven estimating methods is vital.

Ø  Manage the scope: During devising recovery plan, it is necessary to prioritize by focusing on critical features needed to done to bring the project to a stable stage. Once the primary objectives are achieved then add-on secondary features can be included in the future releases

Ø  Re-evaluating project leadership: team leaders providing continuous motivation to the team and having a combination of technical knowledge and leadership qualities is required. The project manager should be able to identify members with incompetent skills before the start of the project for dismissal or to train them accordingly

Ø  Manage users’ expectations: It is important to determine if the expectations of the users are realistic and if not they should be informed and active involvement of users will help in recovery process

Ø  Formulate an open communication plan: The stakeholders/senior management should be informed about the recovery plan, budget estimation and rest of the findings.