In 2004, the Office of Government Commerce and the NAO published the now well known common causes of failure for major 'acquisition-based' programmes and projects. While project practitioners have since extended this list, here's a summary of the common causes which remains a useful checklist for all major projects and programmes.
These are the common causes of failure to proactively avoid:
Alignment - Lack of clear link between the project and the organisation’s key strategic priorities, including agreed measures of success.
Sponsorship - Lack of clear senior management and (Ministerial) ownership and leadership.
Engagement - Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders.
Capability - Lack of skills and proven approach to project management and risk management.
Phases - Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps.
Benefits - Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long-term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits).
Supply - Lack of understanding of and contact with the supply industry at senior levels in the organisation.
Integration - Lack of effective project team integration between clients, the supplier team and the supply chain
Each of the eight areas has a list of associated questions, available from the Cabinet Office here.