Why Mission-Critical Life Sciences Projects Are Failing— and How to Fix Them

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Why Mission-Critical Life Sciences Projects Are Failing—and How to Fix Them

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It’s increasingly challenging for life sciences companies to meet goals on critical initiatives – from mergers to clinical trials to data transformation projects. Managing these complex strategic initiatives takes skill. What can companies do to achieve better results?

Research Overview

Life sciences companies are missing their mark too often on mission-critical projects. The consequences of project failures and missed deadlines can be massive — a delayed product approval or missed market opportunity puts billions of dollars at stake. To keep initiatives on track, life sciences companies say they need more people who are skilled at managing the growing complexities.

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Scope of Research:

RGP recently surveyed senior executives at 404 companies with $1 billion or more in revenue, headquartered throughout North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

404 Companies
99 Life Sciences
$ 1000000000 Annual Revenue
Per Company

Life sciences companies are struggling to meet key project goals, with 33% saying it has become more difficult since March of 2020.

Project management expertise is in short supply

Mission-critical projects are failing at a worrying rate.

Without capable project leaders at the helm, initiatives go astray, and the original intent gets lost.

  • Only 13% of those we surveyed achieved all or most of their key objectives.
  • 30% said most of their projects have underperformed.
  • Roughly 60% said at least a quarter of their projects fell short of goals.

Why is success so elusive?

Respondents told us that inadequate talent and complex workforce dynamics are key contributors.

Challenges include:

  • A lack of capable talent in key project roles (41% to a large or huge degree)
  • More project team members are working from home (7% in 2020 vs. 31% in fall 2022)
  • More talent from outside of the company is being used (40% in 2020 vs. 46% in 2022)

Challenges with talent and tools among key roadblocks to project success

Source: RGP
Figure 1

Biggest Challenges to Project Success:

Large Degree Huge Degree

Key Insight:

Organizationally diverse and remote teams are creating complex dynamics for project execution in life sciences.

58% of life sciences leaders said teams with talent from multiple organizations are important to successful project execution.

Outside consultants are expected to comprise 53% of the average project execution team by 2024.

Key Insight:

Managing team members from multiple organizations can add complexity to project execution – but having this mix of talent is a key contributor to success.

Strong project leaders are vital to achieving better results on mission-critical initiatives

The model for executing mission-critical projects has undergone significant change.

Projects can’t be managed the same way as a few years ago. Team dynamics are different, with more people working remotely and a higher mix of outside talent.

To effectively manage these changes, life sciences companies must invest in upskilling and reskilling experienced employees, and/or partner with outside firms that offer strong project management talent and resources.

How can you improve project execution?

  • Invest in project quarterbacks who can synthesize the tasks, milestones, processes, and team members needed every step of the way.
  • Centrally coordinate the project portfolio to reduce duplications and inefficiencies.
  • Conduct readiness assessments to determine the feasibility and scope of projects upfront.

Equip your organization to excel



of life sciences executives believe highly effective project leaders provide a strong competitive advantage

“Without effective project management, an alarming number of critical projects are failing today and will continue to fail.”

Marcia Brown-Rayford
RGP’s Global Life Sciences Research & Development Leader

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