If you are the project manager in an organization, you know the biggest challenges to getting a project done on budget and on time are “wowing” the client and ensuring the team don’t kill each other (or burn out) in the process. Even in the best-oiled enterprise, project management can be a vastly amorphous matter, underpinned by vague objectives, suffering from communication that goes bottom up and/or less than ideal leadership – and that’s if you’re lucky!

As I am sure you know, a consistent record of excellence for delivering stellar outcomes will set your organisation apart and line your pockets (as well as guard your reputation). If you want your next project be as successful as possible, take care to avoid the following PM sins:

1. Lack of accurate measurement

Business leader Peter Drucker famously said, ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.’ If you’re not addressing the financials, managing the budget on a weekly basis or notifying the client of any change in a timely manner, you can get into trouble pretty quickly. Tracking changes – like additional features or functionality needs – are the keystones of effective enterprise project management, and smart systems can determine how that request will impact the budget and timeline and therefore assist with sign-off.

Transparency across the whole scope of the project will empower you with the clarity to spot landmines before they potentially ruin your day, month or career. By the way, lack of proper data is the biggest source of project failure – yet the solution exists within good project management software.

2. Lack of standardized enterprise project management processes

Not using a standard approach is another mistake businesses make. It makes measuring success that much harder when you can’t determine which processes and methodologies are working and which ones need a total overhaul.

Having a baseline of standards in place will remove a lot of the blame associated with project uncertainty. Again, this is where software (like Sciforma, I must add!) can help you establish repeatable processes for scoping, scheduling, allocating resources and communicating with stakeholders. A standard approach establishes ground rules and expectations for the project team, as well as providing project managers, functional managers and operational staff with a common language that eases communication and helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. Managers can quickly determine which tasks are preceding smoothly (or not). Again, this is much easier when all projects follow the same processes, approaches and performance metrics.

3. Right project, wrong team

Proper project staffing is critical and all the planning in the world won’t overcome an insufficient talent pool. Who’s ever seen a project go belly up where the manager gets picked simply based on availability rather than skill set? In my experience, most of the effort in pulling a project together focuses on finding the right physical and financial resources – rather than the ideal project manager. Project managers need to be chosen well. (So do consultants, contractors, and outsourcers.) For some reason, these staff members often get left out of skills assessments even though they’re doing a vast amount of the work. Thankfully, project management software can also provide visibility and insight into everyone’s skills and workloads – and once project managers know the team member’s strengths and schedules, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to allocate resources across a myriad of talent and scope.

4. Poor risk assessment

Although problems on projects happen all the time, most managers still (surprisingly) seem surprised. Because of this, projects veer most off-track when the PM team divert resources to clean up a mess they didn’t anticipate.

The solution? Perform a thorough risk assessment in the earliest part of the project planning. With your team, brainstorm what could happen to slow or derail the project, make it go over budget, or prevent you from delivering the expected requirements. Consider unexpected events like road closures, union strikes, flu epidemic or even severe weather and figure out ways you can mitigate those risks.

Finally, use an indicator such as the “15-15 Rule” to predict the probability of success. The 15-15 Rule states that if a project is more than 15 percent over budget or 15 percent off schedule, it will likely never recoup the time or cost necessary to be considered viable.

5. Lack of adequate planning

The three factors constraining pretty much all projects are time, cost, and scope. For a project to be successful, these three criteria must stay in balance. If you’ve ever been involved in a project headed for disaster, you could likely blame one of these factors.

You probably know that the best way to ensure harmony is creating a schedule of necessary actions for project completion. Then, attach due dates to those activities based on the deadline for the project. Project management software can help create schedules for scoping, getting requirements, testing and implementing. If team members don’t know what is due when, it makes completing the project where time, cost and scope must ‘get along’, a challenge.

6. Break down in communication

Are stakeholders not showing up for meetings, paying only vague attention or barely speaking up? A lack of interest in the project’s success results from a lack of genuine buy-in, perhaps caused by misunderstandings across departments around both scope and specifics. Individuals or teams may have felt pressure to sign off on the project without really agreeing to it.

Thus, it’s important to spend time up front during the project planning phase to consider where resistance to a project will manifest itself – and fine-tune ways to address it. Make sure everybody really agreed to what the project is going to do and confirm that everyone has the same goals, even amidst conflicting agendas. Identify the stakeholders and plan how you’ll communicate and manage changes to their processes and workflows.

A projects thrives in a positive environment, so by catering communications to the audience (eg, does your sales department understand IT’s tech talk?) you will increase active participation, active feedback and an energised user base.

7. Weak enterprise project management leadership

The best project managers are those who consistently deliver on time and within budget, projects that meet or exceed stakeholders’ expectations. Good project managers are able to anticipate and head off problems that can jeopardize deadlines, budgets and user acceptance. They know how to facilitate meetings, manage risk, and handle a variety of different stakeholders—the business people looking for functionality, the IT people interested in security, and the financial people worried about the budget. Good project managers also possess technical expertise in the given technology.

Every project, however, experiences dips and gains – and you need the tools to allow for them. How do you handle it when a project starts to go bad? It’s all too easy to develop a culture where bad news is slow to travel upward, but if you don’t provide an environment where unpleasant realities are accepted, it will deprive management of vital information.

In project management, if you’re not addressing the financials, managing the budget on a week-to-week basis and notifying the client of any change, you can get into trouble pretty quickly. However, the key to successfully accomplishing a project is getting the right people with the right skills – and supporting them with premium software that can do the rest, from planning to roll-out and hopefully, on-going repeated success.

Find out more about Sciforma, request your demo.

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Maurya Rieder

Maurya is the Director of the Sciforma Australasian office located in Sydney. She is passionate about helping companies manage their portfolio of projects as well as their resources in an empowering way. Main interests: PPM, change management, & team collaboration. Please send thoughts / ideas to mrieder@sciforma.com