14 Common Project Management Mistakes

Mistake No. 2: Projects Lack Experienced Project Managers.

Impact: Projects can quickly grow out of control without a savvy project manager at the helm.

Solution: Hire project managers with certifications and the finesse required to manage stakeholders. Matthew Strazza, vice president of services (North America) for CA, says good project managers have to have strong soft skills. They need to know how to facilitate meetings, manage risk and handle a variety of different stakeholders-the business people who are looking for functionality, the IT people who care about security, and the financial people who are worried about the budget.

"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," says Strazza.

Good project managers also need to possess technical expertise in whatever technology is being deployed, he adds.

Process Mistakes

Mistake No. 3: IT Doesn't Follow a Standard, Repeatable Project Management Process.

Impact: This is the second of the most common project management mistakes. Lack of methodology increases the risk that tasks related to the project will fall through the cracks, that projects will have to be re-worked, and ultimately that a project won't be completed on time or on budget.

Solution: A project management methodology helps you tackle projects efficiently and makes you aware of all the activities involved in the execution of a project.

"Having in place a baseline of standards and methodologies will remove a lot of the risk associated with IT projects," says HP's Cheney.

Douglas Clark, CEO of Métier, a provider of project portfolio management solutions, recommends establishing repeatable processes for scoping, scheduling, allocating resources and communicating with stakeholders. "Those are the things you want to get a handle on first because they would probably give you the biggest payoff," he says.

Mistake No. 4: IT Gets Hamstrung by Too Much Process.

Impact: Too much process makes the project team inflexible, and their inflexibility frustrates stakeholders.

Fumi Kondo, managing director of NYC-based consultancy Intellilink Solutions, once observed an exchange between a software developer and a project manager where the developer told the project manager that he could add extra features to an application with no additional effort. The project manager told the developer not to add the extra features because users hadn't asked for them. "My response would have been,'Go to the users and see if those features are useful,'" says Kondo. "I see nothing wrong with over-delivering if it doesn't impact the budget or the schedule."

Solution: Be flexible and communicate with project sponsors and stakeholders.

Mistake No. 5: They Don't Track Changes to the Scope of the Project.

Implication: The budget for the project explodes. So does the timeline.

Solution: CA's Strazza recommends following a formal change request process: The individual requesting the change in scope (e.g. additional features or functionality) needs to explain the specific changes on a change-in-scope document, and the project manager needs to determine how that request will impact the budget and timeline. The project sponsor has to sign off on the change-in-scope request.

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