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Avoiding Project Failures

By Jeffrey Harding, CH2MHILL |

Companies in the chemical process industries (CPI) spend billions of dollars every year on capital projects. Most are successful, yielding the desired results. Some projects are only partially successful (and therefore partial failures), in that they are ultimately completed and work as desired, but only after a budget or schedule overrun. And some projects fail completely, sometimes spectacularly, never providing the desired results. This article discusses some of the key reasons for project failures. The intent is to assist the reader in recognizing some of the failure modes, so that corrective action can be taken and project failure — even partial failure — can be avoided. The article assumes some basic knowledge of capital projects and is intended for the novice project manager or capital manager. Project professionals will recognize many of these failure modes, and could probably contribute many more. The three basic components of a project, the so-called “iron triangle” of projects, are scope (what is supposed to be provided by the project; for example what is to be built), budget (how much it is supposed to cost) and schedule (how long it is supposed to take) [ 1]. Several of the failure modes, as might be expected,…
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