When Should You Consider Terminating An IT Project Prematurely?

An IT project manager of a company will have to take several serious decisions that make or break a project, or even terminate the project entirely. While most projects are terminated on completion, some have to be severed prematurely if certain aspects of the project are undesirable. Terminating a project prematurely can result in strained relationships with the stakeholders, clients, and leave a black mark in your career. However, such terminations are sometimes necessary.

While the decision of terminating a project has negative connotations, sometimes they are the soundest judgments you can make. Project termination is an organized business process like any other aspect of project management, and it requires clear communication, detailed discussions with the project management team, and a mutual decision, which considers the effects of the move on all members of the organization.

Reasons that lead to unavoidable project termination

Ranging from technical failure, to lack of support from the parent organization, there could be many reasons to terminate a project. Some of them are –

  • Technical snags
  • Unrealistic, ambiguous specifications or requirements
  • Drastic changes in project requirements
  • Lack of planning, risk management or obsolete results
  • Inadequate tools, materials and human resources
  • Lack of support from parent organization
  • Natural disasters
  • Lack of support from management or customers
  • Miscalculated profit markets i.e. significantly lower profit margins than expected

While the reasons are many, even the process of terminating a project requires intensive participation by the IT project manager.

Minimizing the ill-effects of premature project termination

By keeping your company informed of the latest developments in the project, whether positive or negative, you can minimize the risk of terminating the project in question.

  • The project strategy must be communicated within the organization, including reasons as to why these strategies are being chosen. You should also determine the conditions in which the project may or may not support the intended strategies.
  • It is important to set goals and criteria for project success as well as project termination. These criteria can be included in terms of budget, schedule and scope.
  • Organize open discussions with the board on confronting the problems and finding solutions for the project. If you are left with no choice, discuss the termination process.

As a responsible IT project manager, you can take several steps to ensure that the negative effects and consequences of a project termination are kept as low as possible. The key to achieving this feat is clear, continuous and honest communication.

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