project management issues

Project Failure Statistics: The Shocking Truth


When a project has failed to deliver on its promises, it’s important to look at the hard data behind the project and the people working on it if lessons are to be learned from the mistakes made and those mistakes are not repeated.



All business analysts and project managers know that the only way to progress and have more project success in the future, is to learn from the mistakes of the past. But knowing and doing in the heat of a complex project and, moreover, one that is not going to plan, are two different things.


But if you want a reminder of how things can go wrong if you don’t learn from mistakes then take a look at some key project management statistics from 2015 gathered by Wrike.


The statistics are based on figures from the US, but still provide some important lessons when it comes to the global project management approach by leading organisations. Some of these statistics may shock you, some may not surprise you, but hopefully at the very least they will give you some insight into what might have gone wrong or be going wrong with your projects, and help you understand how you can move forward and gain success.

“Only 64% of projects meet their goals.”

If you have a high percentage of projects that fail, is it time for you or your employees to get review your methodology or strategy?

“70% of companies report having at least one failed project in the last year.”

One failed project might not seem like that much of a problem, unless of course it was the one with the biggest budget, or the one for the most important client…

“Organisations lose $109 million for every $1 billion invested in projects and programs. “

That’s a lot of money, but there’s still profit being made which is the most important thing. If your percentages are much closer together, it’s time to reconsider your approach – money matters.

“High-performing organisations successfully complete 89% of projects, while low performers only complete 36% successfully. Low performers waste nearly 12 times more resources than high-performing organisations.”

This is direct evidence that high performance = a high level of resourcefulness. Strategies for resourcefulness can be learnt so you should be constantly learning and adopting new approaches to analysis and projects as market conditions change.

“Only one-third of companies always prepare a business case for new projects.”

Writing a business case is a crucial component when it comes to project success. If this is something you are regularly not doing, it’s time to rethink your strategy as your projects could be doomed to failure from the very beginning just because this one component is missing. Without a solid business case how can the requirements be defined and, more importantly, be controlled. A lack of a business case is one of the reasons for problematic scope creep.

“60% of companies don’t measure ROI on projects.”

Businesses are businesses to make money. ROI quantifies the project value.

“Average Project Success Rates:

39% of all projects succeed (delivered on time, on budget, and with required features and functions)

43% are challenged (late, over budget, and/or with fewer than the required features and functions) 18% fail (either cancelled prior to completion or delivered and never used).

Average % of features delivered – 69%

Average cost overrun – 59%

Average time overrun – 74%


Small Projects (less than $1 million) vs. Large Projects (more than $10 million)

Small Projects (less than $1 million) Large Projects (more than $10 million)
76% are successfully 10% are successful
20% are challenged 52% are challenged
4%   fail 38% fail

The bigger risk takers tend to enjoy the bigger wins, although there is obviously a lot more at stake and the losses will be considerable. However, it is possible to take measured risks, especially when you’re using a truly sound risk management strategy that aims to identify, monitor and control all known risks. It is, unfortunately, often the unknown risks that can bring a project to the point of collapse.

“Large projects are twice as likely to be late, over budget, and missing critical features than small projects. A large project is more than 10 times more likely to fail outright, meaning it will be cancelled or will not be used because it outlived its usefulness prior to implementation. “

The most important thing to remember when it comes to large and/or complex projects, is that communication and a sound strategy and vision are shared by all of those involved in the project from the most junior team member to the most senior executive right from the outset. Large or complex projects are clearly more difficult to manage and their size and complexity means they are less likely to succeed.

Most Common Causes of Project Failure:

  • Changing priorities within organisation – 40%
  • Inaccurate requirements – 38%
  • Change in project objectives – 35%
  • Undefined risks/opportunities – 30%
  • Poor communication – 30%
  • Undefined project goals – 30%
  • Inadequate sponsor support – 29%
  • Inadequate cost estimates – 29%
  • Inaccurate task time estimate – 27%
  • Resource dependency – 25%
  • Poor change management – 25%
  • Inadequate resource forecasting – 23%
  • Inexperienced project manager – 20%
  • Limited resources – 20%
  • Procrastination within team – 13%
  • Task dependency – 11%
  • Other – 9%

This is proof indeed that there are is a whole host of components that need to be actively managed and controlled in order to help the project succeed.

“Despite being the top driver of project success, fewer than 2 in 3 projects had actively engaged project sponsors.”

This is of key importance when it comes to project success. Project sponsors, where possible, should be an active part of the team. Project managers should have excellent communication with the project sponsors, and manage them just like they manage the team. The sponsors should also have regular updates and fully understand their roles and responsibilities in relation to the project. Unfortunately, especially on long projects, sponsors get re-assigned to other projects, never totally engage in the project or simply lose interest as the project drags on.

All statistics and information in bold was taken from the WRIKE complete collection of project management statistics 2015.


21 responses to “Project Failure Statistics: The Shocking Truth”

  1. […] are shocking statistics about project failure reported in recent years, drawing attention to the fact that no project is guaranteed. However, although it is a fact […]

  2. Why such poor statistics and are these data upto-date? When wer ethey last measured – how and by whom?

  3. 74% of projects are late, 59% are over budget, and only 69% meet original goals – ouch…

  4. […] to Project Management Works, 30% of projects fail due to poor communication, and 23% do so because of poor resource […]

  5. […] feel their risk registers are ineffective at identifying and planning for potential risks, and 30% of projects fail as a direct result, I felt the need to write this Process Street post about how to create […]

  6. […] feel their danger registers are ineffective at figuring out and planning for potential dangers, and 30% of initiatives fail as a direct consequence, I felt the necessity to write this Course of Road publish about the best […]

  7. […] feel their risk registers are ineffective at identifying and planning for potential risks, and 30% of projects fail as a direct result, I felt the need to write this Process Street post about how to create […]

  8. […] feel their risk registers are ineffective at identifying and planning for potential risks, and 30% of projects fail as a direct result, I felt the need to write this Process Street post about how to create […]

  9. […] any experienced (and competent) project manager for one word to explain why so many projects fail (which many do) and they’ll probably say, […]

  10. […] As a result, Project Management Works reports that 20% of project failure is due to inexperienced project managers. […]

  11. […] to the failure of a project, requiring you to start all over again. In the past year alone, 70% of companies recorded at least one project failure that required returning to the drawing board. You may be […]

  12. […] you know that around seven in every ten businesses had at least one failed project last year? It's hard to quantify the potential […]

  13. […] to lifestyle. But even with the best of intentions, some projects are not intended to be fulfilled. Exploration demonstrates that only 39% of tasks do well in assembly all the necessities for deadlines, budgets, and […]

  14. […] not the only one! If you’ve ever experienced failure, you’re definitely not alone. Around 36% of people admit that they have experienced at least one consequential professional failure throughout their […]

  15. […] Those who have undertaken training courses for project managers usually believe a project can be saved. This makes sense as most project managers like a good challenge and are determined enough to try and see it through. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the right decision. The further you get into any project, the more it is likely to have changed from the original idea. There are likely to have been changes in the business priorities and goals, budgets and even other resources. These all contribute to a high level of project failures. […]

  16. […] believe things are as bad as that? Look at sources from Forbes, HBR, Forbes and Project Management Works and you’ll see that – if anything – these numbers are more optimistic than […]

  17. […] believe things are as bad as that? Look at sources from Forbes, HBR, Forbes and Project Management Works and you’ll see that – if anything – these numbers are more optimistic than […]

  18. […] Secure Executive Sponsorship: Identify and engage high-level executives who can provide the necessary support and influence to make the roadmap successful. Research suggests that without an engaged sponsor, projects are 29 percent more likely to fail. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *