Circle Opinion

Why data insight projects fail and how to succeed – Part 2

Andrew Bradley

In this 4-part blog series, we look at some of the common reasons data projects fail and the key underlying solutions that can help businesses improve project success rates. Part 1 dealt with outcome misalignment and the problems of a project failing to align with business strategy. This time we look at estimates and what problems they can cause.

Estimates – Balancing the books and the benefits

Almost every organisation would like to deliver more for less in the shortest space of time – after all, who wouldn’t?!

When undertaking any project, you’re going to need to provide estimates on the time it will take, the resource you will need and how much it will cost. This will likely first be highlighted in your business case or business analysis for the project.

Estimates can present challenges for many IT departments, where often the focus is on “how much is it going to cost?” and pressure on how to keep that number as low as possible. While some projects have a relatively low investment, larger enterprise projects will require a significant investment from the business.

This is an area where your business case is absolutely critical for your project to secure the stamp of approval. Many projects are not approved at this stage due to a poorly developed and formulated business case.

The very best project can be delivered but, if the business case was not correctly targeted, the outcome delivered will miss the mark.

There is a need to pivot the conversation within businesses. The conversation should not look at “how much is this going to cost?”. The question should be “how does that add value to what we do?”. The best business case is written from a perspective of the reward far outweighing the risk. Being able to articulate business benefits will automatically shift the narrative from the negative to the positive.

Project cost is relative. Delivering 10 cheap projects that all fail is not good business. Delivering a single project with a greater level of investment that improves the outcomes of customers, whether directly or indirectly, should be far more preferable.

To avoid the possibility of your project not being approved – especially in the case where the size of investment may give stakeholders the need for pause – it’s crucially important to:

  • Define the need within the business: current problems or gaps your recommended solution will solve
  • Determine the desired outcomes: describe the positive improvements to the business when your solution is implemented


Without a well-developed business case, your project may not be approved – meaning it’s failed before it’s begun. Lowering costs on your estimates in order to gain sign off may increase project failure risks or mean you need to request further investment halfway through. Overcome this challenge by creating a persuasive business case which shows your stakeholders why the need for this solution is business critical and highlight the valuable outcomes your solution will help them achieve.


Well developed business cases are not only more likely to be approved, but also facilitate a successful outcome delivery with the most business benefit.

Our team of Business Analysts work with organisations across the UK at the beginning of data journeys to build impactful and persuasive business cases that help secure investment in a solution best fit for purpose. Find out how our team could help you.

Next time, we’ll look at how project scope can impact delivery, benefits realisation and affect managing expectations on your projects.

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Andrew Bradley