Survey: Poor communication causes most IT project failures

Inadequate resource planning, unrealistic deadlines also cited in CompTIA study

Poor communication is the reason most IT projects fail, according to a Web poll released by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based trade association.

Nearly 28% of the more than 1,000 respondents to the survey said poor communication is the number one cause of project failure, according to CompTIA. Insufficient resource planning was found to be the second most-cited cause, while unrealistic deadlines was third.

"We wanted to run this poll specifically to find out what people perceived as pain points with relation to projects; what things really kept people up at night in relation to why their projects were failing," said Kyle Gingrich, director, product and services, skills development at CompTIA.

Gingrich said communication is a component of a project at every stage, and once managers understand the objectives of the project, the expected results and the budget restrictions, they need to clearly communicate that information to everyone involved.

"You have to determine who you're going to communicate with, when you're going to communicate with the various people throughout the project, where you're going to be communicating with them," she said. "Are you going to be setting up meetings? Are you going to be doing just e-mails? How is that going to take place? What are you going to communicate?"

There are different methods and different levels of communicating depending on the audience. For example, executives need a high level of information to help them make decisions, she said. Managers also need to tell their staffs the reason for a communication, she said. For example, the communication may be needed to resolve a conflict in a project, to get more resources assigned, or to keep the staff up to date on a project, she said.

Insufficient resource planning is the second most cause of project failure, according to less than 18% of poll respondents.

"Insufficient resource planning is very closely tied to your communication," she said. "When setting up expectations of your project at the very beginning, part of your communication plan is understanding what type of resources you're going to need; when you're going to need them and what level of skill sets you're going to need," Gingrich said.

Unrealistic deadlines is the third most frequent cause of project failure, cited by 13.2% of those polled.

"If you didn't communicate clearly, and you didn't get the right resources for the right period of time, then there's a risk that you're going to build a schedule that just can't be met," Gingrich said. "All three of these things go hand-in-hand it's a chain of events."

According to the CompTIA poll, other factors that contribute to project failure are poor project requirements; lack of stakeholder buy-in/support; undefined project success/closure criteria; unrealistic budget; insufficient or no risk planning; and lack of control/change process.

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