How do you make your project a success?

For more than 10 years AlfaNordic has worked with projects within the life science industry, and through this work a number of issues, which often result in delays or exceeded budgets, have been identified. For this reason we have developed Project Due Diligence. Project Due Diligence is a consultancy service with focus on ensuring the availability of the basic prerequisites for a successful project execution, incl. that the right allocation of resources and management focus etc.

We have identified five overall reasons for projects being challenged, and in this article, we will introduce these reasons – and briefly outline what you can do to reduce the challenges and deliver your project at the agreed quality, time and cost.

A lot of research has been done on what goes wrong in large projects. These investigations and our own experience show that the problem is rarely technical, even though we as project managers and project owners mostly worry about whether or not the technical side of a project will function. On the contrary the problems in complex projects more often have structural reasons. These originate from politics, alternative agendas, lack of experience in execution of projects, etc.

The five overall issues we have identified are:

  1. A good basis in the organisation ensures timely decisions:
    Without the support of the entire organisation, and particularly the management team, the project most often ends in a "decision vacuum", which prevents timely decisions. As a project owner it is important to have a governance structure which outlines a process in order to ensure support in the organisation. If this is an organisation which rarely conducts projects, then a temporary structure should be part of the project plan from the beginning of the project.

  2. A lack of objectives and quality demands creates uncertainty::
    Often clear objectives and quality demands for a project are lacking. This results in a project execution phase a bit like running the marathon without knowing where the finishing line is. In order to avoid this situation it is important to ensure that the project owner and the end users are involved in the very early stages of the project. Furthermore, the objective should be locked as soon as everybody agrees on the business objectives and quality objectives which the project must fulfil.

  3. A good risk assessment must be built on facts – not feelings:
    Unfortunately realistic staffing schedules, risk assessments, timelines and budgets are often in short supply in complex projects. There may be many reasons for this, but often it originates in internal political circumstances which result in alternative agendas and deviations from the company strategies. The most important thing to do is to use a data supported approach for the staffing, risk assessments, timeline and project budget and to have an overview of the status of these which is as close to real time as possible. 

  4. Insufficient communication increases the risk of an unsuccessful project:
    No matter what is done to prepare the project, participants and owners, a lack of communication between project, consultants, contractors, project owner and users will reduce the chance of completing the project successfully. If one has ever seen a sports match, one know the importance of timely and updated communication based on facts.

  5. A good organisation is a prerequisite of having the right skills:
    If you do not pay attention to the different demands on the project owner for a project completed in individual contracts by trade compared to a project completed as a turnkey contract, then you often end in a situation where you lack the right skills. For this reason, it is important to adjust the project organisation to match the chosen execution strategy early in the project.

So how do you proceed with your project, and what could you do if the above seems confusing or difficult to change?

In AlfaNordic's Project Due Diligence we have developed a concept for examining large and small projects, so that you as a sponsor, project manager or consultant gain an insight into what is already working well. Then you can focus on fixing the elements needed for a successful completion of your project.

The size of the project is not important, but the accumulated project costs make up a larger part of a small project than they do in a large project. AlfaNordic's Project Due Diligence makes the most sense in pharmaceutical projects which contain several elements such as construction, process or laboratory equipment, automation and quality requirements according to GxP requirements. Projects of this type are often highly complex and have a great influence on the client's future business.

Project Due Diligence may be carried out in all stages of a project, but we believe that it will bring most value either to do it in connection with finishing a project stage, e.g. to make a Project Due Diligence of the consultants' project at the end of Basic Design before the implementation of the main investment. Of course it may also be carried out if the project is facing problems, but the value is bigger when it is used preventively.

In cooperation with you AlfaNordic's experts will scrutinise your project plan and go through the following in detail:

  • Content, client requirements and expectations
  • Quality, including GMP or other requirements
  • Finances
  • Time schedule
  • Contract setup
  • Organisation
  • Risk profile
  • Project basis and constructability

Depending on the size of the project, this process will include from 1-3 weeks' work and will result in a Due Diligence report, which will give you:

  • An overview of the current status of the project
  • An overview of the factors which may prevent a successful completion
  • An estimate of how the project will end with the current setup
  • An overview of what may be corrected so that the project can be carried out according to the expectations.

The team behind the Project Due Diligence consultancy service consists of more than 10 experienced project managers and specialists, and in this way we can scrutinise a wide range of pharmaceutical projects from IT projects to larger GMP construction projects.


Metier A/S (Norge): Metierundersøkelsen (2017), Den årlige undersøkelse som beskriver tilstanden til prosjekt-Norge.

Rezvani, A. and Khosravi, P. (2019) ‘Identification of failure factors in large scale complex projects: an integrative framework and review of emerging themes’, Int. J. Project Organisation and Management, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.1–21.


In this article AlfaNordic has identified 5 overall reasons for projects being challenged. For more than 10 years we have worked with projects in the Life Science industry, and through this work we have identified a number of issues.


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