According to a report by independent international IT research advisory firm the Standish Group, only 34% of projects in the IT sector are successfully completed on time and on budget. This finding suggests project management poses a number of challenges. In this post, I outline the top pain areas of project management along with the steps that managers can take to mitigate these problems.
1. The need for constant follow-up
It is important for a project manager to be aware of how things are going in the project, and its overall state. Staying up to date with who is doing what, how much of the work has been done and what exactly is left are a few things, among several others, that the manager should be aware of. However, keeping up with each and every team member can be quite time consuming.
Solution: In order to make this follow-up process an easier one, managers can use a task management tool, which will help them keep a check on things without putting in much time or efforts. Moreover, a solid communication plan can keep them updated and informed.
2. Accuracy in estimates
This becomes difficult when project deadlines are way too tight. Estimates are simply a forecast of how much time is required to complete a given task. And, unless you’ve some magical powers to foresee the future, it’s hard to make an exact guess.
Solution: Rather than mandating task durations, go with the ranged estimates that offer flexibility, so there’s enough space to move back and forth for the delivery of the task. Keep in mind that your resources won’t be productive all the time; you need spare time for unexpected events such as medical emergencies, equipment failure, network outage and so on.
3. Variations in client requirements
Quite commonly it happens that client requirements start changing as the project progresses. This creates another difficulty for the managers as they have to understand the new requirements and have to assign the relevant tasks to team members while the project is being implemented.
Solution: From the beginning you can define and maintain a change approval process detailing all the changes that have been requested, along with how these changes affect the scope of the project. You can put in time and cost filters for these requests to be passed through for approval. Ultimately, this log becomes a key communication tool for scope change between you and all the project stakeholders.
4. Misinterpretation of IT terminologies
Another problematic and common pain point is miscommunication and misunderstanding of IT-specific terminologies and concepts. Erroneous or false assumptions from client’s side about the functionality and potential of IT equipments, tools and personnel results in unrealistic project expectations and deliverables.
Solution: The project manager should take initiative to discuss and educate the client in order to help him understand what exactly can be achieved and what cannot be.
5. Decentralised employees
This is where the reality hits hard! There was a time when teams used to work altogether in a co-located office, but now the situation has changed drastically. With remote employees or virtual teams becoming a more common part of today’s workforce, managers have to make extra effort to collaborate with far-off employees. The main difficulties are the physical distance and difference in timezones. Working with multicultural teams and scheduling meetings across multiple timezones is a unique challenge in its own way.
Solution: Use collaboration tools for real-time chatting, voice and video calling with your dispersed employees. Have sessions with the whole team and conduct one-on-ones as well. Try to build rapport with each and every member of the team. In addition to work related discussions, try to have a word with them about their family, friends and other aspects of their personal life. This will help you know their motivational points, which will further accentuate the professional relationship.
6. Lack of accountability
It is widely agreed that accountability plays a critical role in project management. Lack of accountability among the team members leads to blame games and drop in productivity. Directing the team towards a common objective and making individuals of the team take responsibility for their roles in the project is certainly a demanding job.
Solution: In order to foster team accountability and ownership, take advantage of these three principles: focus, influence and consequences. Moreover, effective delegation of work plays an important role in making employees take the ownership of work. Don’t merely distribute tasks; rather see who is best at doing what. Set a roadmap for your team and encourage their opinions on project-related matters. Make sure each and every member has a clear vision of where exactly s/he fits in the picture.
7. Too-rigid architecture
Within an organisation, a few processes are being standardised, which are being followed by everyone. But when these processes lack flexibility and scalability, things tend to drop and it may even kill the workflow. This rigidness ultimately proves harmful for the project as managers are not able to adapt according to the new business models, latest trends and new demands of the end users.
Solution: Managers should suggest changes and moderations to the management in order to improve the architecture. Try to make these processes autonomous in nature so that they can be connected with other processes, whenever required.
What other solutions to these pain points have you come across?