Why Understanding How Projects Fail Is Important for Success

Dustin Werden, director of project management at Afidence (left) and Bryan Hogan, president of Afidence (right)

Photography by Daniel Smyth

In business, two thirds of all technology projects fail because they’re late and over budget. We aren’t talking about small projects, either. In fact, the failure rate actually increases in proportion to the project’s budget. We’re talking lots of money and lots of resources. And two thirds of them fail to come in on time or on budget. How is that possible?     

“The failure point for many projects is not understanding what the business driver actually is,” says Dustin Werden, Director of Project Management at Afidence, a technology consulting and services firm. “You don’t replace a roof because it’s 20 years old, you replace a roof because it’s leaking. Businesses often want to upgrade to a new platform simply because it’s the latest version, but if the upgrade doesn’t address their needs then the net effect is nothing has changed. The new roof still leaks.” 

Often this failure results when companies fail to engage the stakeholders and those with their “boots on the ground.” 

“That leads to a situation where the finish line turns into a moving target because there wasn’t an exhaustive engagement with the different business units to begin with and in the middle of the project you’re getting new inputs,” says Werden. 

He offers the example of an airline company that wanted to modernize its antiquated system of keeping print records of parts orders, parts tracking and parts maintenance. But, he says, “they didn’t engage the mechanics or the logistics people. They did it completely from an IT and finance perspective.”

The company put an enormous amount of money into the project. After it was completed, efficiency studies determined that while the new system was modern, it was, ironically, slower. 

“The failure point for many projects is not understanding what the business driver actually is... Businesses often want to upgrade to a new platform simply because it’s the latest version, but if the upgrade doesn’t address their needs then the net effect is nothing has changed."

More ironic is the case of a company that sought to move its tech to the cloud because their internal systems were becoming unreliable. When it came to its email system, the company’s desire to minimize the impact on employees led to a solution that integrated the email system with the internal systems, so employees only needed to maintain one password. 

“Which sounds great,” says Bryan Hogan, President of Afidence. “Except they were going to make the dependency of their internal systems impact their cloud systems, so if their internal systems went down they couldn’t access their cloud. And what was the reason they did this in the first place? Because their internal systems were problematic! They just lost sight of the original goal.”

It’s this sort of involution, where good intentions are defied by bad follow through, that makes Afidence’s project management services so valuable. 

“We always ask, ‘What is the business trying to accomplish? Does that actually help it be better and more efficient?’ ” says Hogan. “That keeps our eyes on the ball, which is important because often people can get blinded by technology for technology’s sake, and the culture at Afidence is to step back and consult the bigger picture.” 

As companies merge, reorganize or want to upgrade their existing platforms, Afidence steps in to initiate the strategy for new projects or take over management of existing projects that are failing to deliver on their promises.

“Our strategy lends itself well to organizations whose IT departments are busy trying to keep up with all their internal changes,” says Werden. “We take an outside view of a company’s goals and investigate what additional support IT can use to better position the organization for success.”

Afidence offers full-time project management consultants for companies that need dedicated support. For companies of all sizes, cost can be a barrier to bringing in formal project management for smaller projects that don't justify a full-time dedicated resource. Afidence has an innovative solution: OnPoint Project Management

OnPoint Project Management offers a team of employees: a senior project manager that oversees the project; an intermediate project manager to meet with the company’s stakeholders every day and develop the project plans and timelines; and a project coordinator, a lower-level manager that coordinates schedules and formats project reports. 

“For smaller projects, OnPoint Project Management means a high-level project manager is only doing those tasks that require their level of expertise." Says Werden.  "Our skill-match billing model means you're paying each tier of the project management team to deliver what they do best and not the other tasks that aren't in their wheelhouse, which makes it financially feasible and really compelling.” 

It’s part of Afidence’s promise to keep eyes on the goal.

“The beauty of OnPoint Project Management is that you get all the experts you need efficiently delivered in terms of value that scales up and scales down,” says Hogan. 



Afidence is located at 309 Reading Road, Mason, OH 45040. You can reach them at 513.234.5822 or visit their website at www.afidence.com.