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12 common project management mistakes--and how to avoid them

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | Sept. 27, 2012
So many projects, so much mismanagement. That's the refrain of many IT executives.

Solution: "To stop these productivity losses, a good first step is to reduce work in progress (WIP) by 25-50 percent," he says. "This reduces the back and forth and makes managers and experts more responsive in dealing with issues and questions. Though counter-intuitive, reducing the number of open projects by 25-50 percent can double task completion rates."

Project Management Mistake No. 5: Lack of (Regular) Communication/Meetings. "Communication is the most important factor of successful project management," says Tim Parkin, president, Parkin Web Development, which provides online strategy consulting for companies to align their business with technology to achieve high growth and profitability. "Without regularly and clearly communicating, the project will fall apart."

Solution: Pick a day and time to meet each week (either virtually or in person) that works for the team (not just the project manager) -- and stick with it. "Having specific days and times scheduled, in advance, helps to keep everyone on the same page and keeps the project flowing."

Project Management Mistake No. 6: Not Being Specific Enough with the Scope/Allowing the Scope to Frequently Change. "Any project that doesn't have an ultra-clear goal is doomed," says Halloran. Adds Oz Nazilli, marketing manager, Easy Projects, a Web-based project management tool, "scope change is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to your project. If not handled properly it can lead to cost and time overrun." Even something small, like changing the color of a logo or adding a page to a website might cause unexpected delays, he says.

Solution: Define the scope of your project from the outset and monitor the project regularly to make sure you and your team are keeping within the scope. And to avoid delays and deviation from the original scope, "track change requests separately from the original project scope, and provide estimates on how it will affect the schedule -- and get explicit customer/stakeholder approval for [each change]," suggests Nazilli.

Project Management Mistake No. 7: Providing Aggressive/Overly Optimistic Timelines. "The intentions are noble, as [project managers are] often trying to keep their clients happy," explains Jay Melone, a former software developer and project manager who is currently the CEO of digital agency DigitalXBridge. "But missing deadline after deadline will only lead to distrust and aggravation on the part of your client."

Solution: "Good project management software will allow you to manage many work items and the bandwidth of available resources," he says. However, it's still important to add a buffer -- some extra time and money to your project, "especially in the world of technology."

Project Management Mistake No. 8: Not Being Flexible. While you may think of your project plan as your bible, "telling you what needs to be done, by whom, and when to do it to get to your goal...don't hesitate to listen to new information and suggestions that come up along the way," says Carol Woolfe, project manager, Blackbaud, a leading provider of software and services for nonprofits.


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