Large projects are extremely hard to manage, and the failure rate is very high. Find out what you can do to increase your chances for success.

We all know that large IT projects are often bound to fail or end up eating up enormous resources. And the more ambitious the project, the higher risks. So, what can we do to avoid costly mistakes?

First, we must realize that this is a global challenge. Statistics published by the Standish Group in their annual report reveal the scale of the problem. Less than one third of IT projects are successful. Success in this case means the projects that fully met deadlines, budget and functional requirements.

Nearly a half of all projects (48 percent) are completed, but don’t meet the above requirements and end up being too expensive, drawn-out, or offer less functionality than originally planned. And a frightening 23 percent of projects are abandoned at some point. These figures should be enough of a motivator for anyone to start looking for ways to mitigate risks and increase the chances for success.

A big project is very much like a long and exhausting journey. Remember the race to the South Pole? Amundsen won because he planned carefully, brought the right team and equipment and was an outstanding leader himself. He had no time to wait for help, so he made the best use of his existing resources. This is an extremely valuable skill to learn in business, too.

Here are seven practical tips based on actual business experience to help you deliver projects on time and budget.

1. Place greater focus on clear business requirements

High-quality business analysis lies at the core of project success. Poorly defined requirements lead to overlooked customer needs and missed deadlines, according to the Business Analysis Benchmark Report. Experts advise treating business requirements as a process rather than a document. Ask customer for feedback and constantly check on the requirements to make sure they align with the business goals.

2. Set realistic deadlines

Only when you have clearly defined requirements and scope of work, will your expectations be realistic. What’s important is not to overpromise. To provide more accurate estimates, refer to the previous project records and employee timesheet data. nIn the long run, you may need to amend or revise functional specifications, so make sure to leave some extra time for that. But if this happens too often, delays will be inevitable.

3. Build a solid team

People are everything. If you are heading out to the South Pole, you will definitely need the best people next to you. The same applies to a large project. Pick competent staff and get them all involved in planning and executing. This is essential in keeping workers motivated. But don’t count too much on the individual skill, experts warn. Teamwork and collaboration are more important. Whatever it takes, you need to have experienced leaders to bring your team together.

4. Communicate efficiently

Efficient communication is critical on every level. First, make sure that your product owners have good contact with the customer and understand their needs well. Remember that if something goes wrong, it’s vital to identify the problems as early as possible.

Second, establish efficient communication inside your project team. Frequent status meetings are a must. Their goal is not only to learn about the project progress, but also identify problems, deal with conflicts and coach your team. These practices will contribute to a better collaboration. But again, make sure you know where to stop so that meetings don’t turn into waffle. Half an hour to one hour is usually enough, so keep an eye on your watch.

5. Provide great executive support

It all starts with the stakeholders. If the senior management isn’t engaged in a project and shows no interest for it, you are doomed. It becomes increasingly clear that the project lacks support, and as a result the employee motivation drops dramatically. With strong management support, executives identify and mitigate risks, allocate or acquire resources when the need arises, and provide oversight at every stage of the project. It’s less about the tools and more about the process and attitude.

6. Go agile

Experience shows that smaller projects have better chances for success than large ones. Breaking down a large project into a number of manageable parts does the trick. Try aiming for smaller milestones and shorter development sprints. This can be achieved with Agile methodology. According to the statistics gathered by the Standish Group, Agile projects succeed three times more often than projects with traditional – the so-called Waterfall – approach. They also show a lower rate of cost and time overruns.

7. Keep your finger on the pulse

On every stage of the project, it’s essential to track your progress and know how you are performing. You can choose out of plenty of tools that allow you to view spent and remaining resources, and report on them. There’s no need to use large and complex systems such as Microsoft Project that require much effort and time to configure. Opt for a simple but functional timesheet software (such as actiTIME employee timesheet) to set up budgets, manage user rates, and track spent hours.

Success of a large scale project is defined by multiple factors. To ensure that your project is delivered on time and budget, you have to build the process carefully, starting from high-quality business analysis and accurate estimates. Prepare well for your journey by picking a strong team and encourage them to communicate.