5 of the most common mistakes project managers make

project management mistakes

Bala Kalimuthu explores some of the most common project management pitfalls in the IT space, and gives some advice on how to avoid them.

You’re reading this (probably) because you yourself are a project manager, and you’d like to debunk each and every one of the points I bring up here. You’re ready to systematically tear them apart one by one, and you despise me for even considering posting such a ludicrous article.

Unless… you’re wondering if the rest of those who share the same job title as you face the same or similar issues as you. We get you – loneliness is detrimental to development, even in the professional spectrum. So without further ado, we give you the most common mistakes project managers make (in our humble but researched opinion).

1. A project schedule, effort estimates and/or budget is developed without liaising with the delivery team

The first thing to consider here is that, as we all know, all too many projects run over time, budget, or both. Now, while there can be many different factors that lead to this, the practice of estimation falls to the project manager in charge. Without ample communication with his/her delivery team, it’s nigh on impossible to provide an accurate timeline or budget.

When there’s pressure being applied by the powers that be (senior management, business sponsors, etc) to provide highly accurate figures as early as possible, it can be quite a struggle to deliver such accuracy when there may still be several question marks hanging above certain aspects of the project. Unfortunately, this creates somewhat of a snowball effect; unstable promises are made under pressure, and when the team aren’t able to produce on time, relationships are tested.

Sometimes, a project manager may not have the actual delivery team available at the time of estimation, and supply a ‘guesstimated’ time frame and budget to senior management. While his/her intentions were good, this has the potential to again run the project over on time and/or budget.

What may seem like an obvious solution here (and what we strongly recommend to avoid the above issues) is the implementation of the delivery team during the estimation process. They will be able to provide more accurate time frames and efforts included in each of their assigned tasks, and they’ll be more invested in the project due to being involved from the get-go. So get everyone involved – the earlier the better!

2. Lacking a clear vision of how success will be measured

Another uncannily common difficulty project management personnel can be faced with is providing measurable success criteria in the beginning. Sure, KPIs can certainly be provided initially, but the ebbs and flows of the business, requirements and scope result in ever-changing criteria. Conversely, the stakeholders’ disapproval of different aspects of the finished product is a direct indicator of failure.

The major issue here is that it’s simply an unavoidable occurrence, but something to take into consideration for future projects is to maintain regular communication with the stakeholders. Provided you’ve explained from the start that the indicators have a tendency to change during the process, as long as you keep them up to date with any changes there’ll be no surprises upon completion.

3. Not staying firm with deadlines or negotiating the scope

As we’re all aware, many businesses are under an extreme amount of pressure concerning time. When time to market falls by the wayside, competitive edge suffers and snowballs into lost revenue.

When you’re approached to complete a project and the stakeholder(s) is approaching it akin to the old adage ‘champagne lifestyle on a beer budget’, you need to stay firm with achievable deadlines. Being clear from the beginning that the completion date provided is unreasonable will assist in alleviating overdue tasks down the track. While you have the option to increase your resources, you also need to consider the impact of an increased workforce your budget.

4. Scope management practices and the project’s delivery methodology aren’t in sync

When undertaking traditional waterfall projects, the scope needs to be clear and as detailed as possible prior to any fixed pricing estimates have been established. An issue here is that the ever-changing business climate can impact the scope, forcing a change on the project’s path, so a certain amount of flexibility on both sides needs to exist.

Agile Practices recommend the prioritisation of requirements and the different elements of the scope as another way to work through this issue. It is very important that project managers stay on track of any and all scope changes that occur, and report them directly so appropriate re-assessments can be made.

With an industry as volatile as IT, companies need to make sure their chosen pathway to complete their project is suitable. The Waterfall model has a sequential structure, each stage having to be complete prior to the next one beginning. Agile methodology follows a widely different road; instead of stage-by-stage, phases are all done concurrently. If a project manager implements the incorrect structure, the future successes are put into jeopardy.

Each of the methods has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to take several things into consideration when deciding which way to go; delivery type, organisational structure, resource accessibility, etc.

5. Becoming the ‘lone wolf’ (doing everything yourself, ignoring your team’s input)

There’s no such thing as a one-man wolf pack (excluding Alan from The Hangover). Just like there’s no benefit in taking on too much, resulting in incomplete work, mistakes, and reluctance of your team members to provide you with valuable project feedback. Utilise your whole wolf pack and work together to complete your project, and share in its successes.

Bala Kalimuthu is national manager – digital solutions at Revolution IT.

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