RESEARCH & ANALYSIS: 30 min/day time-saving opportunity
What do we mean by “project & work management”?
By “project & work management,” we are referring to individual contributors’ and managers’ efforts to manage the project-based work they have to do. Throughout this research and analysis, we commonly use data derived from organizations’ project management as a proxy for individuals’ and managers’ own management of their work. To make this proxy as analogous as possible, when possible, we use data from small projects (less than $1M).
How much time do we lose on project/work management?
We lose time in 2 ways: project delays and project failures, amounting to 103.4 mins/day.
- Delays: We took the average of three studies that showed average delay (i.e., time overrun) for a project of 7%, 27%, and 74% to come up with an average overrun of 36% for large projects. Because small projects are “challenged” 53% as frequently as large projects, we reduced this average overrun to 17%. This average overrun (17%) amounts to 94.4 mins/day.
- Failures: 16% of projects are “deemed failures” (average of 14% and 18% failure rates). Because small projects fail 8% as frequently as large projects,3 we reduced this average overrun to 4%. When projects fail, 32% of the time the budget (and therefore time) is fully lost and 42% of the time, it is fully recouped. By using these facts and assuming that the remainder of the time 50% is lost, we calculated that 45% of the time a project takes is lost on average for a failed project. By losing 45% of project time on 4% of projects, we lose 9.0 mins/day
How were savings by category calculated?
Of the multiple reasons projects fail or are delayed, we identified 5 that were relevant to individuals managing their own work. We used how often these 5 reasons were cited as being the cause of project delays or failures as a proxy for what portion of the total delay or failure time they are responsible for. The 5 areas that follow are responsible for 42% of delay time (39.7 mins/day) and 37% of the failed time (3.4 mins/day) for a total of 43.0 mins/day.
We then compiled multiple sources for each of the 5 areas stating how often (or how commonly cited) they are as causes for delays or failures. We averaged these rates across all sources to get an average percent of the delay and failure time caused by each of the areas.
However, these percentages across the five areas add up to greater than 100% because multiple causes can be given for the same delay or failure. To avoid overlap, we normalized these percentages (taking the percent for a given area over the sum of all percentages for either delays or failures).
Finally, to calculate actual time lost as a result of that area, we multiplied these normalized rates by the total percent of time these 5 areas are responsible for (42% for delay time and 36% for failed time) and by the total amount of time lost in each of those areas (94.4 mins/day for delays and 9.0 mins/day for failed projects).
#1 – Work getting off-track midway through = 10 mins/day
- People blame poor management of project requirements for 47% of project delays on average.
- When normalized, ineffective communication accounts for 22% of the delay time caused by these 5 areas or 8.8 mins/day
- People blame poor ongoing management of project elements for an average of 22% of project failures. The numbers making up this average are: 20%, 21%, and 24%.
- When normalized, unclear direction accounts for 18% of the failure time caused by these 5 areas or 0.6 min/day
- Together, unclear direction accounts for 9.5 mins/day
#2 – Unclear direction and objectives = 9 mins/day
- People blame unclear direction for 41% of project delays on average, sometimes “admitting they’re unclear on the business objectives” and other times, saying they’re “unclear or disagree on what constitutes project success.” The numbers making up this average are: 31%, 45%, and 48%.
- When normalized, unclear direction accounts for 20% of the delay time caused by these 5 areas or 7.8 mins/day
- People blame unclear direction for an average of 32% of project failures. The numbers making up this average are: 29%, 30%, and 37%.
- When normalized, unclear direction accounts for 27% of the failure time caused by these 5 areas or 0.9 mins/day
- Together, unclear direction accounts for 8.7 mins/day
#3 – Weak or insufficient planning = 5 mins/day
- On average, poor planning accounts for 27% of project delays. People blame “weak planning” for 21% of project delays on average. Other research established that 33% of the efficiency of a project is influenced by planning quality.
- When normalized, unclear direction accounts for 13% of the delay time caused by these 5 areas or 5.1 mins/day
#4 – Poor communication = 4 mins/day
- People blame ineffective communications for 56% of project delays on average.
- When normalized, ineffective communication accounts for 27% of the delay time caused by these 5 areas or 10.5 mins/day
- People blame ineffective communication for an average of 26% of project failures. The numbers making up this average are: 19% and 33%.
- When normalized, unclear direction accounts for 22% of the failure time caused by these 5 areas or 0.7 mins/day
- Together, unclear direction accounts for 11.2 mins/day
- Yet, it is unreasonable to assume that we can prevent all time lost due to ineffective communication changes. Companies that develop twice as many communication plans complete 33% more projects successfully. While we aren’t suggesting more communication plans is the answer or that this was the only reason they had more success, we use this as a proxy for what portion of communications-related time losses can be averted. Using the 33%, we calculate 3.8 mins/day in savings.
#5 – Changes to the project or organization priorities during the project = 2 mins/day
- People blame project changes for 40% of project delays on average, referring to this challenge as “change in scope mid-project” at times, and “exceeded budget due to scope creep” at others. The numbers making up this average are: 38% and 41%.
- When normalized, unclear direction accounts for 19% of the delay time caused by these 5 areas or 7.4 mins/day
- People blame changing priorities or objectives direction for an average of 38% of project failures. The numbers making up this average are: 36%, 38% (change in project priorities), and 41% (change in organizational priorities).
- When normalized, unclear direction accounts for 32% of the failure time caused by these 5 areas or 1.1 mins/day
- Together, unclear direction accounts for 8.5 mins/day
- Yet, it is unreasonable to assume that we can prevent all changes. The project management approach, Agile, has been shown to improve project success by 28%. Using this as a proxy for the amount of time that can be reclaimed, we calculate that 2.4 mins can be saved per day.
- Bloch, M., Blumberg, S., and Laartz, J. “Delivering large-scale IT projects on time, on budget, and on value.” McKinsey & Company: Digital McKinsey (Oct 2012).
- Hardy-Vallee, Benoit. “The Cost of Bad Project Management.” Gallup (Feb 2012).
- “CHAOS MANIFESTO 2013: Think Big, Act Small.” The Standish Group (2013).
- “PMI’s PULSE of the PROFESSION: 9th Global Project Management Survey.” Project Management Institute (2017).
- “The Cost of Poor Project Management.” Project Management Institute (2016).
- Larson, E. “I still don't have time to manage requirements: My project is later than ever.” Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2014—North America, Phoenix, AZ. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. (2014).
- “Why up to 75% of Software Projects Will Fail.” Geneca (Jan 2017).
- “2016 Global Developer Report: How Developers Work.” GitLab (2016).
- Serrador, Pedro. “The Impact of Planning on Project Success-A Literature Review.” The Journal of Modern Project Management, Vol. 1 (2013).
- “Poor Communication Leads to Project Failure One Third of the Time.” Coreworx (Apr 2017).
- Ciccarelli, Devan. “The Definitive Guide to Scope Creep.” GoSkills (Accessed Aug 2018).
- Greene, Jessica. “The Top 9 Reasons for IT Project Failure: Is Your Project at Risk?” Spoke (Accessed Aug 2018).