Takeaway: Salvaging a failed project is never easy. The best approach for figuring where to start rebuilding is to understand what went wrong.
When you’re hired to pick up the pieces of a failed project and move forward, it can be overwhelming to wrap your head around where to start. The key to coming up with answers to questions about how you’re going to be able to resurrect the project is to ask a lot of questions. These are the series of steps I follow to prepare for getting a project back on track. price it well because you’re likely to face a few unknowns and more than a few risks.
Investigate what went wrong
Study the project documentation
I’ve been in this situation four times, and it’s always interesting to investigate what happened to get the project from point A to point F. You should try to obtain project documentation (including the original requirements, budget information, project schedules, and status reports), though it may be difficult to get your hands on this information. In the four instances when I’ve taken over failed projects, I’ve only had access to documentation once.
Talk to the previous project lead or sponsor
It’s even more interesting if the person who managed the failed attempt is available to meet with you. Even though the former project manager will likely claim the project going off the rails wasn’t his fault, you can still gather a lot of useful information by speaking to him. If that person isn’t willing to discuss the project, you might see what you can find out from the project sponsor.
Engage the SMEs
The subject matter experts (SMEs) are your next point of contact. Unless the previous consultant was completely out of touch and avoided the SMEs altogether (which would be a clue as to why the project failed), then they were likely part of the failed project and can offer insight into what happened and be good resources for information, requirements, and basic needs going forward. In my experience, the SMEs want you to succeed, especially if they happen to be some of the users who will benefit from the implementation.
Map out an action plan
After you collect all of this background information, it’s time to map out your course of action for the project. You should create a detailed project schedule and document how and when meetings and communication will occur. It’s also important to conduct risk planning; the project sponsor should understand about the cost and the need for risk planning given the project’s history of failure.
Overall, you need to show that you’ve learned from the mistakes that were made on this project, and that you don’t intend to repeat them.
Bonus tip: Be sure to price this engagement high enough for various unknowns and risks you’ll likely face.