Why is the Front-End Important?
Part of the object of the front-end in some systems is to prepare a project for funding approval or sanction and some version of a stage-gate approach. The importance of the front-end decision-making phase in securing projects' long-term success is now increasingly recognized. So, the interest in the front-end as a discrete part of the management of the project (noting that we technically are managing a phase that is before the project formally exists) is justified from the downstream results. The literature seems to be clear that an emphasis on a careful and thorough front-end phase is essential to project and portfolio success.
The particular importance of the front-end is because critical decisions are made during this phase. A key advantage of this phase is the clarity with which the fundamental reasons for the project can be addressed, before the confusion between achieving "project delivery" success and "project outcome" success is encountered.
Several authors show that early pre-acquisition activities can significantly reduce cost and schedule growth, and that projects with better scope definition have had improved cost and schedule performance. On the negative side of the argument, work on "early warning signs of problems" suggests that "Roots of problems in later project phases are found in processes and decisions at the front-end of projects". Indeed, evidence suggests that the top reason for project failure is poor pre-project-planning, including "lack of ability to manage the front-end very well". Moreover, inadequate construction input during the front-end results in the fragility of plans regarding constructability.
Even where the "front-end" is not mentioned as such, one author found 42 different causes for project failure, many of which can be grouped as project initiation (e.g., unclear success criteria, changing sponsor strategy, poor project definition, unrealistic project baselines, incomplete requirements, inadequate estimating, unrealistic expectations, commitment escalation). Where the front-end is not given sufficient resource (including money, time and degree of intellectual focus) and it is rushed, there is a danger that it is simply put onto a register or into a portfolio, providing the opportunity to place pressure on the permanent organization for both continuing existence and resource attention.
In certain sectors, such as industrial, oil and gas and extractive sectors, the emphasis is explicitly on the front-end such as in Front End Loading (FEL) and is there to force the minimization of the chances of later problems.
9. Ibid, section 3.2. RQ2, p4