How can I ensure that my big project is a success?

The best way to ensure your big project is a success is to be clear about your goals, establish what needs to be done to accomplish those goals, then structure how you’ll coordinate, collaborate, and communicate to best mitigate problems most likely to derail your success. Proactively thinking through the right tools, talent and steps will help set your progress up for success, no matter what that successful outcome looks like for you.

Below, we’ll look at a few reasons big projects fail and ways you can maximize the chance for your own project’s success.

Why big projects tend to fail—and how to ensure yours doesn’t

Around 55% of businesses experience project failure at some point. Sometimes, a bad idea is to blame. But when good ideas go bad, it’s often due to factors like poor planning, overly aggressive timelines, or unforeseen changes and delays. Other reasons include:

Key stakeholders don’t get early buy-in—or the chance to weigh in down the line

There are usually more cooks in the kitchen with larger projects, but that’s not what causes them to get derailed—missing out on early buy-in or feedback until it’s too late are the bigger culprits here. And if a stakeholder doesn’t like the final result, that’s classified as a failure.

Solution: Get cross-functional buy-in from key stakeholders early on. When necessary, give visibility into progress and the opportunity to share feedback to minimize late-in-the-game weigh-ins that result in major changes.

Unclear goals, strategy, or objectives

Around one-third of all failed projects have unclear goals to blame. This can lead to too many changes and scope creep, too. For big projects in particular, well-articulated goals are the roadmap for your project that ensures everyone arrives at the same destination.

Solution: Write a great project brief and share it in a kick-off meeting. Make this and any other information your team needs readily available, and use milestones to turn objectives into deliverables with due dates that hold everyone accountable and keep things on track. With milestones baked into your contract terms from the get-go, everyone is clear on expectations from day one.

Lack of resources and talent

Big projects require enough hands on deck to keep things on track and on time. But finding and engaging talented professionals takes time. If your existing resources are already overallocated or lacking specific skills you need, chances are you’ll face delays.

Solution: Upwork gives you the tools you need to quickly find top freelancers and specialized agencies on Upwork who are ready to tackle projects like yours on tight turnarounds. Upwork Plus, Business, and Enterprise clients get access to dedicated support professionals who can help match freelancers to projects even faster.

Decentralized communication that inhibits collaboration

According to software and project management pros Atlassian, 59% of U.S. workers say poor communication is the biggest barrier to team success. Good communication is like your project’s nervous system, and it can help in identifying small issues before they become big issues. It also makes good collaboration possible—which is key when tackling bigger projects.

Solution: Make quality communication a priority and try using a centralized place like Upwork Rooms for collaboration, discussions, and questions. This also helps new collaborators who join a project mid-stream to catch up.

Waiting too long to get to market

In some cases, project success can hinge on whether or not it makes a splash or miss the boat—especially in the highly competitive mobile space. A new operating system or device feature might mean a late-stage pivot is necessary when an MVP would have been a success.

If you’re chasing a trend or trying to launch before your competition, waiting too long may lead to missed opportunities. In the famous case of Ford’s Edsel sedan, the drawn-out process to get to market meant that by the time it was finally released, consumer preferences had shifted to compact cars.

Solution: If you’re spending too much time researching or iterating, shoot for an MVP with the quick turnaround of an agency or freelancer—and get it to market while it’s relevant to see how it performs.

Incompatible deliverables from contributing vendors

It can be helpful to break a big project down into smaller deliverables, but having multiple vendors, contractors, or agencies handle different deliverables requires coordination. Components that contribute to a larger initiative should be compatible—especially when it comes to tech, or multi-channel marketing where consistent messaging is key. Just look at the Airbus A380 manufacturing debacle. Parts manufactured by vendors using different CAD software resulted in incompatibilities and expensive delays.

Solution: Engage a project management consultant to oversee deliverables and communicate any requirements. A centralized repository where communication, progress, and deliverables are shared between contributors helps to prevent issues with compatibility down the line.

Skipping testing, QA, or editing to meet aggressive deadlines.

Would you go to production with code that hadn’t been tested, or publish an article that wasn’t edited? It doesn’t matter if you hit every deadline and stay under budget—if the product is full of mistakes or doesn’t work properly, it’s a failure. It’s even been reported that 17% of failed large-scale IT projects end up threatening the overall health of an organization.

Solution: Don’t skip QA and regular rounds of testing at key junctures can help prevent costly bug fixes. Consider a freelance QA team to test, edit, or review projects in tandem to reduce bottlenecks.

Need Flexible Talent to Tackle a Big Project? Upwork Can Help

Upwork gives you access to flexible, skilled talent, which means you can build out the teams and capabilities you need to tackle any project of any size, creating cost and work efficiencies for big-budget initiatives.

Not every failed project threatens the health of an organization. But when you’re measuring it against variables such as delays in getting to market, missed opportunities, reputational issues, or lost revenue, the value of tapping freelancers on a platform like Upwork is clear.