A new project launch brings with it a sense of optimism that the entire process will go forward without a glitch. Of course, even the most rookie project manager is less than surprised when things don’t generally proceed according to plan.
One of the most effective methods of dealing with challenges in the project management arena is to anticipate problems or issues before they have an opportunity to arise. This renders project managers better equipped to attend to the issues at hand and lessens the chances of project derailment.
Most projects are complex, incorporating varying elements of time, resources and people. Managing a project successfully takes more than comprehending project management methodology. It often entails handling challenges on numerous fronts.
Below are some of the most common project management issues and how to address them.
Inadequately Defined Goals
When a project’s goals are not clearly defined from the outset, it becomes extremely difficult to generate the necessary deliverables. It also proves problematic to lead a successful project management team.
If the goal isn’t clearly defined, it is up to the project manager to communicate this. At times, it can be a matter of upper management disagreeing over goals. Project managers need to pose the right questions until they are content that stakeholders are in agreement with the project’s goal.
Project Scope Becomes a Shifting Target
Commonly referred by some project managers as ‘scope creep,’ a project scope becomes a shifting target when upper management fails to keep a close eye on the project and instead, permits the project’s scope to extend beyond the original objectives. Too often, project managers make the mistake of implementing every change requested, essentially making the project’s scope a shifting target.
When accepting a change request, project leaders should assess how the change will impact budget and deadlines before determining how or if to implement it.
Lack of Project Knowledge
Occasionally, a project comes along that requires a specialized skill set, one that may not be held by any members of the team. Even when a project manager recognizes that this is the case, too often the lack of a skill set is not addressed.
An effective and efficient project manager should be able to assess the situation and define what competencies are required as well as evaluate the skills of the available team members and decide what training or outsourcing are necessary for project success.
No Plan B
It isn’t always sufficient to anticipate challenges and manage risk to avoid them. Without contingencies built into a project, it can be held up for extended periods of time, as various potential solutions are evaluated. But just as a general lack of contingencies can spell the end of a project, so can a half-baked effort to formulate enough plan B’s to keep things on track. Too much uncertainty regarding preferred options when a challenge pops up can be as dangerous to the project’s success as no contingency at all.
Project managers need to be certain that contingencies are in place from the very start of the project. Once they have identified the most likely challenges or risks, project managers can go about coming up with detailed solutions that can be implemented if necessary. It is important that project managers work out solutions down to adequate level of detail so that contingencies can be put into place immediately, should situations dictate.
It should come as no surprise that poor communication, whether written or verbal, puts a project’s success at risk. Lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines and confusion among stakeholders, including team members.
Project managers should offer direction at every step of the way, communicating goals as well as expectations. Effective communication to all those involved in the project is crucial to its successful completion. Effective communication has the added benefit of increasing team morale.
Some project leaders like to please. This isn’t a bad trait but it can sometimes lead to a project manager agreeing to impossible deadlines simply because he or she wants to be seen in a positive light by co-workers and upper management.
Asking a team for the impossible can flatten morale, and productivity right along with it. A better route would be discussing with stakeholders why a deadline is not realistic.
Lack of Budget
Too often, a project manager is asked to run a project that, much like the previously mentioned issue with unrealistic deadlines, has no hopes of successful completion.
Management should provide sufficient resources, including time, money and personnel. It is important to define project needs and obtain budget approval upfront. It is also crucial that project leaders assign and prioritize budget resources during the entire project.
Inadequate Stakeholder Engagement
A disinterested stakeholder can do much to slow or even stop an entire project. While the project may ultimately draw to a close, a lot of energy will be lost in the meantime, trying to get sign off or input, for instance.
Communicating openly and encouraging feedback from all stakeholders involved with the project is a necessity. Project managers should identify several stakeholders who have authority over the project in order to lessen the impact of someone who is disengaged.
The Litcom Approach
Our dedicated team has significant experience rescuing derailed projects. We conduct a review of your existing systems and projects, develop a comprehensive profile of all IT-related projects underway, monitor the progress of each initiative, organize the IT efforts to support any business process improvement activities, and identify and bring forward IT-specific value propositions which outline either cost saving or revenue enhancing opportunities.
For more on how Litcom can help you with your project management needs, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.