Back to all posts
Masooma Memon

How to Improve the Success Rate of IT Projects

IT projects are famously difficult to steer towards success, but have no fear: let's examine how to improve the success rate of your IT projects with our guide.

It's no secret that IT projects have a pretty shocking failure rate.

Indeed, by some estimates only 0.5% of IT projects can be considered an all-round success: delivering the intended benefits, and doing so on time, and within budget.

Now, of course, this is disappointing. But the horror stories also serve as a reminder, and motivation: what can you do to make sure that your project doesn't flop like so many of them do?

The short answer is to find out the common problems preventing your projects from succeeding and then take consistent corrective measures.

The long answer? Take a look at this guide - it dives into the nitty gritty of how to improve the success rates of IT projects and what software can help you along the way.

Why do IT projects fail?

IT projects can fail for a handful of different reasons with the broad culprits being the following:

1. Lack of or incorrect resources

The wrong talent or incorrect fit working on projects can undermine a project’s success as well as impact the team’s morale. In turn, this can happen for various reasons such as: 

  • Shortage of budget
  • Lack of time investment into resource allocation 

In particular, resource allocation can be poor for projects where there are no pre-determined or agreed-upon project leads. Since nobody takes responsibility for who is working on what, the project tends to fail as it doesn’t leverage the required set of skills. 

2. Lack of effective project management

Yet another common reason for the failure of IT projects is the lack of efficient project governance.

Often, IT experts on the team are passed on reigns of project management work. However, since project management isn’t their expertise, the project suffers. 

In fact, project management demands unique expertise, a specific skill set to manage projects and resources, and the experience to plan out, manage, and govern projects.

To this end, if there are no resources for bringing on an expert, then IT team members must be (at the very least) given the time and resources to learn it. 

Further reading ➡️ 15 Common Project Management Challenges & How to Deal with Them

3. Inflexible project management strategy

Your project management strategy could be another reason for project failures if it promotes: 

  • Fewer iterations
  • More upfront execution
  • Poor team collaboration

These are typically shortcomings of a waterfall methodology of project management.

Remember: if you’re talking to users and testing your minimal viable product in the later stages, your project workflow is itself paving the way for failure. 

4. Ignored or poorly managed risk management

As with all other projects, IT projects should also plan for risk management early in the project phase. Unfortunately, there’s little time to no time spent on risk management and coming up with preventative and corrective measures to deal with project blockers.

The result? Increased risk of project failure.

5. Poor stakeholder engagement

IT teams often don’t have a plan to engage stakeholders. While sometimes teams can get lucky, most of the time they bear the brunt of micromanagement from stakeholders who don’t understand the technicality of their work.

On the other hand, certain stakeholders drop in at the end — pushing teams to work unrealistically fast or discontinuing an in-progress project. All this risks project success significantly.

6. Unrealistic timelines

Poor stakeholder engagement alongside poor project management often leads to IT teams chasing impractical deadlines and project milestones.

The lack of time, in time, pressurizes the team to compromise on the quality of the deliverables. Naturally, this breeds more problems — from unsatisfied stakeholders to a demotivated project team and wasted resources.

7. Scope creep

All the reasons listed above contribute to scope creep.

A lack of strategic project management, for example, can lead to ineffective scope mapping, in turn culminating in a bigger problem later in the project lifecycle.

Similarly, poor stakeholder engagement can cause scope creep too. When stakeholders aren’t adequately educated about the ongoing project’s progress, they often end up making unreasonable, last-minute requests. 

Steps to improve the success rates of IT projects

The exact steps to improve your IT projects’ odds of success depend on the unique set of problems you’re struggling with.

This problem awareness is where we recommend you start instead of following any solution blueprint to a tee, since it won’t be tailored to your unique project and circumstances. 

It’s why your first step should always begin with a diagnosis of your common project challenges. Then identify solutions to test. Here’s how: 

1. Understand the problem

Go back to a handful of your previous IT projects and list out reasons why they failed.

If you can, enlist a project team member or two to help you identify the issues. Soon you’ll start noticing there’s a common pattern in why some projects fail while others don’t.

Remember: sometimes problem diagnosis can take more digging around, while other times project pitfalls are apparent. So make sure you put some serious time and thought into this process. 

Be sure to create a list of reasons at the end of the day. Expect many of these reasons to be similar to or a version of the broad project threats we’ve listed above. 

2. Take the time to plan projects thoroughly

Lack of project management is often a culprit that isn’t very apparent. But whether or not it shows up in your problem diagnosis, we suggest you put some time into refining your project management skills and processes here.

Why? Because successful projects follow mature project management practices and, therefore, are better able to meet their timeline and complete work within the defined budget.

The question now is: how challenging is project planning?

The short is that it isn’t challenging though it does take a specific set of skills. With a robust project planning software, you can make things easier and less time-consuming.

For instance, use Runn’s Project Planner to break down the full project scope into milestones and tasks. Then, identify the resources you’ll need (based on the project tasks’ requirements) and start tracking progress from the same workspace:

 The best part is that you can plan and manage multiple projects in a central space with Runn. This saves you from switching between Excel sheets for different projects and gives you a holistic view of all that’s in your pipeline. 

3. Put in a plan to engagement stakeholders too

Begin with mapping out all the stakeholders. Identify who you need to keep fully informed, manage most thoroughly, and keep up to date.


 Based on that, devise clear strategies around how you’ll get stakeholder buy-in and keep multiple stakeholders on the same page.

Keep in mind: planning how you’ll keep stakeholders engaged can seem like a waste of time. But it saves you from trouble down the line by helping you anticipate stakeholders’ needs and engaging them before it’s too late. 

4. Experiment with an agile project methodology 

An inflexible approach to managing IT projects can easily lead to failure.

The solution? Use an agile or hybrid approach. In fact, 76% and 73% of survey respondents say they expect their organization to increase its use of agile and hybrid approaches, respectively. 

An agile workflow centers around shorter cycles or work sprints. This way, the project teams work quickly on different project aspects — taking end-user feedback at each sprint and pivoting or adjusting as needed. 

This saves time and resources as well as the probability of failure as you pivot/adjust per the need, saving the project from failing.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of agile methodology and how you can implement it.

5. Create a risk management plan 

As you plan your IT project, commit time to identifying potential project risks and plan what you’ll do to mitigate them.

Common project risks include: 

  • Operational risks
  • Financial risks
  • Market risks
  • Resource risks

Some of these risks might not be as easily manageable as others. Resource risk, for example, can be tackled before it grows into a problem.

If you’re managing resources in Runn, for example, you can see which project resources will be overbooked in the future. This allows you to proactively respond to the risk of work falling behind etc., because of these resources’ unavailability.

6. Take measures to guarantee quality 

Quality assurance involves making sure the final product is free of error. Two things that help here are: 

  • Making, sharing, and using quality control checklists throughout the project
  • Setting scheduled reminders for quality checks in your project management software

7. Have a plan to encourage collaboration in place

Yet another way to improve your project success rates is to improve collaboration between team members. 

There are various ways to do this. For one, host regular team meetings to facilitate team members to understand each other’s style of working and how they can coordinate with one another.

Two, work from a single workspace and stick to using one communication channel. This helps team members keep tabs on project progress, upcoming milestones, and scope. It also ensures all communication threads, files, and documents are in one place for easy finding.

Lastly, use Runn to manage team members’ skills. By making a skills inventory here, you can quickly see each person’s skills, experience level, day rate, and availability. In turn, this makes it easy to not just put together the project team but also assign work to the right-fit people.

8. Pay attention to project governance

Project governance refers to a set of principles, policies, and processes to manage and oversee projects.

Make sure you have these in place before you get started. Determine who will be responsible for what and who will report to whom, how, and by when. 

You might not be able to get your governance procedures right in the first round. Remember to iterate and improve as you go. 

9. Take post-implementation evaluation seriously 

A Post Implementation Review (PIR) involves evaluating how well your project objectives were met and what lessons were learned.

More often than not, these are ignored. However, taking the time to evaluate progress and reflect on what could have been done better and what should be improved moving forward is critical for ensuring project success. 

In summary

The success of your IT projects mainly depends on how well you plan, manage, and govern your projects. So make sure you take the time to:

  • Understand project scope
  • Break the project down into milestones and tasks
  • Create a set of practices to govern ongoing projects
  • Determine how you’ll find and manage resources
  • Come up with a plan to engage stakeholders

We’ll be leaving you with a 7-step strategic plan to plan projects. And when you’re ready, take Runn for a free trial to see how it can help you better manage and stay on top of your IT projects.

Enjoy the post? Sign up for the latest strategies, stories and product updates.

You might also like

Try Runn today for free!

Join over 10k users worldwide.
Start scheduling in less than 10 minutes.
No credit card needed