It’s happened to the best of us. You had a good plan, but you’re running late and spending more money to catch up. You wonder if it's time to throw in the towel and cut your losses. Don't do that until you read this article.

It’s happened to the best of us. You had a good plan, but you’re running late and spending more money to catch up. Decisions were agreed upon, expectations set, a winning team engaged, and yet you’re in a place you didn’t intend. Perhaps your board is asking questions:

  • What is your plan to improve adoption?
  • How are you managing your vendors to meet their obligations? What are you doing to remedy gaps?
  • How is the project team tracking progress against goals? Did you articulate those goals well enough to know when “done is done”?
  • What does the business stand to lose if this project goes sideways?

You wonder if it’s time to throw in the towel and cut your losses.

Troubled projects are more common than you think Even the most rational, well-structured projects can be derailed due to insufficient project management, improper systems testing, vendor misalignment, unforeseen business changes, or a combination of each. A YEAR study conducted by McKinsey and the University of Oxford found that, on average, large IT projects exceed costs by 45 percent while delivering 56 percent less value. Moreover, projects that involve software have even higher cost and time overruns.

From the start, multiple factors are preventing the change you want to achieve. And throwing in the towel isn’t an option. But, if you think your project can’t be saved, think again.

Turning a troubled project into an opportunity Consider this example. A utility undertook an expensive and complicated project to replace its aging infrastructure with new electric and water meters that would:

  • Provide customer access to self-service and accurate billing data
  • Reduce operational costs
  • Implement new “time of use” rates
  • Reduce theft and bad debt

The utility knew the enterprise system would change the way it worked, and it needed help. The organization undertook a thorough process to select a partner that would guide it in implementing advanced-metering infrastructure technology. Unfortunately, the chosen vendor proved to have insufficient experience with the preferred technology, and improper configuration created several critical issues. These issues were further compounded by poor project management and a lack of support. Costs quickly spiraled out of control.

We performed an independent assessment based on industry-specific technology project execution experience. This assessment identified the critical issues that would lead to imminent project failure if not remedied, as well as specific steps the utility could take to get the project back under control. Key steps included:

  • Evaluating several options, including staying with the current vendor or moving to another vendor, and staying with the current technology or selecting an alternative;
  • Utilizing an early identification approach across seven project factors to surface issues, remedies, and methods for avoiding future recurrence;
  • Encouraging the utility to have an honest, solution-focused conversation with its current vendor to understand whether the vendor was willing to assign a new, more qualified team; collaborate more effectively with the utility to ensure a successful outcome; and re-negotiate its fees and statements of work.

Manage complicated issues before they turn into a highly visible nightmare
The utility’s three-step remediation plan began with a six-week period for the vendor to fix the critical issues. Step two included a revised system deployment with thorough testing and approval by the utility. The final phase included deployment of the customer-facing e-portal, again with thorough testing and system acceptance by the utility.

As a public utility, our client is all too familiar with the visible nature of any project gone awry. By investing in an independent review, the utility was able to demonstrate good faith to its customers and to the public that it was doing everything in its power to remedy issues and complete the transition as quickly as possible, with minimal disruption to customers.

Get a new game plan
The more complicated the project and system, the higher the risk of failure. If your project becomes troubled, don’t wait for it to be derailed. Seize the opportunity to initiate an unbiased, objective view of the situation and solutions. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will become to fix the situation.

For more information on how West Monroe Partners helps clients with Project Turnaround, please contact Carrie Camino at