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Embracing ISO 21500 to Avoid Project Failure

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Tame Leading Project Failing Factors by Embracing ISO 21500

Seasoned project managers or directors can all draw upon their experience to come up with a list of shattering project derailing factors like those elaborated in “The Six Project Lemons”. These menaces could be steered clear or smoothly domesticated if ISO 21500 is embraced and heeded. The primary reason for many project detriments to lose their devastating power under the enchantment of ISO 21500 is because the latter addresses the most wrenching maladies upfront by advocating establishing processes in ten critical areas (subject groups) at the onset when some of these subject group processes are often put together as quick fixes or otherwise absent entirely in common practice. As long as the ISO 21500 is followed, the chance of a project getting derailed is reduced significantly. Illustrations are given below to show how the ISO 21500 standard can help a project team to prevent or tackle some common but most damaging project ailments.

Customer Involvement

Many times project leaders do not engage customers directly or rely on their inputs indirectly through a third channel. This practice has been proven to be a common offender for misalignments on schedules, costs, deliverables, and many other areas that a project covers. With ISO 21500, this will cease to be a problem because this ISO standard explicitly includes customers among a project’s key stakeholders in the stakeholder subject group process guideline. Additionally it not only describes in its communication subject group process guideline the need for stakeholder communication processes, but also advises for running a proper stakeholder control process in the controlling phase of this standard.


When a project is deficient of resources in areas such as people, facilities, equipment, materials, infrastructure, and tools, it has likely overindulged on its requirements. Typically project leaders tend to view workers as the primary resource demand during feasibility studies at the project initiating phase, therefore frequently overlook shortages of other assets such as facilities, equipment, materials, infrastructure, and tools. ISO 21500 leaves no such key indispensable ingredients out. It champions serious measurements of all these constraints in the resource subject group process guideline. Additionally, it promotes establishing resource control processes in the controlling phase of the project life cycle so that any shortages in the beginning or fluctuation during the project implementation phase are accounted for and dealt with properly.

Executive Sponsorship

Projects are set to fail when executive sponsorship is weak or outright missing. Projects with meager executive support will be deemed unimportant by the project team whose members could give higher priority to their other operation or projects. ISO 21500 puts vital emphasis on project sponsorship by playing up its importance in the introduction part, its very first section, in the document, and then underline its significance in many other places. Moreover, it specifically calls this out in the stakeholder subject group process guideline section to ensure that project sponsors are not to be left out. In essence, this corporate backing is made out to be one of the most crucial points in the guideline that no ISO 21500 adapters could accidentally omit.


On most occasions, a project team is made up of employees from various functional units owned by their respective functional managers. When any one of these employees come into a workload conflict, the project director may not have the power to enforce the employee’s project commitment when the operation assignments from the functional manager have the worker’s primary focus. Oftentimes project tasks are forced to play the second fiddle when the functional managers are rated primarily on their operational excellence, not their contributions to project success. ISO 21500 accentuates the importance of having senior management to understand the principles and practice of project management and their roles to facilitate appropriate support to the project which include adequately empowering the project manager. If resource contention necessitates upper management to intervene, the executives who understand what clipping the project leader’s power may mean to the project success would apply good judgments when weighing project tasks against operation tasks.

Scope Creep

Gung-ho marketers, revenue chasers, or customer experience executives may push the project team to accept scope changes in midstream. When this happens, the existence of appropriate change management processes is fundamental to guide the project team through this vexing challenges. Setting up Ad hoc work sessions to assess change requirements to administer project realignment is a dangerous approach, but nonetheless is exactly the modus operandi that many project teams follow. Impacts of accepting a scope change without a solid assessment procedure could be distressing enough to a project, quickly summoning a special task force to steer through this turbulence might aggravate this peril further. To the rescue, ISO 21500 prescribes scope control within the scope subject group processes so that practitioners will have worked out scope control processes before their projects kick off, and hence are well equipped to handle change requests in the best possible ways should they occur.


There exist several popular and well accepted standards and methodologies in project management including PMBOK and PRINCE2 among others. But only until the advent of ISO 21500 when people are provided with a high level guidance constructed to leverage the strengths among the aforementioned forerunners. While these preceding standards and methodologies are excellent sources to help any project team to architect detail processes pertinent to their project environments, the ISO 21500 is the desired overarching guidance designed to assist success-driven project teams to be thorough and forward correct on their project undertakings. This standard helps to diminish negligence, ignorance, and to avert many common project illnesses by establishing all necessary key processes at the beginning to ward off ailments, as well as to better control and maintain project health. At the end ISO 21500 will prove to be the best model for serious project professionals to cherish at the present time, no conscious project team should start their new pursuit without upholding this great discipline.