14 Common Project Management Mistakes

Mistake No. 6: They Lack Up-to-Date Data About the Status of Projects.

Impact: You can't manage what you can't measure, as Peter Drucker would say. Nor can you coordinate resources or react to changes in scope, says HP's Cheney.

Solution: Software.

Mistake No. 7: They Ignore Problems.

Impact: Problems don't solve themselves. They fester the longer you ignore them and ultimately compound the cost of the project.

Solution: "If you do something wrong, it's about how well you fix it," says GlassHouse Technologies' Scannell. "Most people batten down the hatches and look up in the month. Understanding when you're starting to fail and quickly being able to engage as many stakeholders as possible to fix it is critical."

Planning Mistakes

Mistake No. 8: They Don't Take the Time to Define the Scope of a Project.

Impact: If a project's scope isn't well-defined by the business and IT up front, the project can end up ballooning like Friends actor Matthew Perry in the sitcom's later seasons. What's more, IT lacks the clarity and direction it needs to complete the project on time and on budget and meet the business's expectations.

Solution: Ill-defined projects are best served by a business case and a scoping exercise, says Intellilink Solutions' Kondo.

Mistake No. 9: They Fail to See the Dependencies Between Projects.

Impact: Projects don't happen in isolation. They're often dependant on other projects going on at the same time. When project managers fail to see the dependencies between projects-such as staff assigned to one project are needed on another&mdashh;projects get held up. Such slowdowns can have a ripple effect on all projects.

Solution: Take dependencies into account during project planning, says Métier's Clark. Talking with stakeholders and diagramming the project can help uncover dependencies.

Mistake No. 10: They Don't Consider Murphy's Law.

Impact: Stuff happens, and IT gets surprised by it. Consequently, the project goes off-track while IT tries to clean up a mess it didn't anticipate.

GlassHouse Technologies' Scannell recalls a company in the U.K. that his firm acquired, that was moving its mainframe to a new data center. The IT group devoted an entire Saturday to taking down the mainframe so that they could move it to the new data center the next day, he says. While the IT staff were en route to the new data center with the mainframe on Sunday, they ran into a gay pride parade, and they couldn't reach their destination due to roads blocked off for the parade. They had to drive back to the original data center and put Humpty Dumpty back together again. The lack of planning caused the IT staffers to do more work than was necessary.

Solution: Perform a risk assessment as part of the project planning. With your team, brainstorm what could happen to slow or derail the project, to make it go over budget, or to prevent you from delivering the expected requirements. Then figure out ways you can mitigate those risks, says Primavera CEO Koppelman. "If they sit down and think about those risks, they'll come up with a pretty good list," he says. "This exercise doesn't take a long time, and it's enormously helpful in understanding the soft spots in a project before it even gets underway."

Mistake No. 11: They Give Short Shrift to Change Management.

Impact: All the time, money and hard work that went into delivering a new IT-enabled capability can be for naught if users don't adopt the new technology.

Solution: Spend time up front during the project planning phase to consider where resistance to a project will manifest itself and ways to address it, says Métier's Clark. Identify the stakeholders whose jobs will be impacted by the new capability, adds Intellilink Solutions' Kondo, and plan how you'll communicate changes to their processes and workflows with them. Not all of the changes will be negative.

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