Across industries, project managers (PMs) know that following best practices and avoiding mistakes means happier stakeholders, better teamwork, and optimal results. But when it comes to delivering large-scale IT products, PMs often struggle the most, resulting in substantial overruns in both cost and schedule.
Here are the seven deadly sins of IT project management that tend to lead to such critical problems — and how to avoid them.
Sin One: Skipping the Kickoff Meeting
Any PM would agree that a project’s success partly hinges on their being able to bring the best thinking to the table. To set the stage for great work, it helps to hold a kickoff meeting. That way, everyone starts out on the same page with expectations. When your team has a strong sense of the project’s goals and they understand the roles they’ll play in overall success, they’ll be empowered to make better decisions from Day One.
All stakeholders, not just the internal team that’s picked for the project, should attend the kickoff meeting. It’s just as important for others to know their responsibilities, too.
Sin Two: Failing to Prioritize Things Around the Office
Most organizations have two kinds of projects: 1) strategic (internal) projects that improve the value of the business in some form or another and 2) external projects with higher visibility and rigid timelines. To prevent teams from focusing too much on lower priority projects, PMs should know how to assess the organization’s multiple, concurrent projects so they can prioritize them for their teams.
Sin Three: Overwhelming the Team
It’s a drain on the project — and the bottom line — when a development team feels overwhelmed with the job they’ve been given. Breaking down big projects into smaller tasks can instill confidence because team members can more easily see their way through a smaller task by reaching smaller goals and building on each success throughout the duration of the project.
Plus, managers often find that by breaking things down into smaller tasks, it’s easier to match the right people with the right roles. That’s another great way to keep your team from feeling overwhelmed.
Sin Four: Forgetting to Hold Meetings
Yet another way to keep your team from feeling overwhelmed is to hold regular meetings. It’s a chance to re-center the group, clear up any confusion that’s brewing, and generally make sure you’re all on track with your goals.
Meetings also serve to keep other stakeholders updated on progress and maintain continuous alignment with the project’s strategy and product goals.
Sin Five: Using Outdated Technology to Stay Organized
One surprisingly common mistake is using stand-alone spreadsheets to build project timelines and to keep track of progress. This guarantees confusion and reduces efficiency. It’s also ironic since, in the field of IT, PMs should be tech-savvy enough to have learned about project management software by now.
Manage your projects with software that offers a visual representation of the team’s progress. It should be accessible from any device and it should enable collaboration. And, to make decision-making easier, it should be able to handle every stage of the project life cycle, from inception and team assembly to MVP.
Sin Six: Overlooking the Importance of Staying Agile
To maximize the value of your team, it’s important to know how to identify past (and present) mistakes and then steer a different course, if need be. That’s hard when you’re paralyzed by the fear of failure. Despite best efforts, sometimes things just go wrong. Knowing that and knowing when it’s best to abandon a particular strategy can help PMs stay agile. A project might just have to be revamped with new resources, an adjusted budget, or a fresh set of expectations for delivery.
Sin Seven: Flailing at Change Requests
There’s no way around it: project managers who work in IT need to be able to handle change requests. A common mistake many PMs make is allowing scope creep to get out of hand. Having a clear strategy for managing industry-specific changes like added features will help keep scope creep at bay.
To avoid scope creep, it helps to put change requests through a rigorous test. Ask these questions:
- Does the change align with the vision of what the product is supposed to be?
- Is the change essential?
- Will the end user have a better experience with the product as a result of this change?
If you’ve clearly defined the goals of the product and you’ve set down some success factors, uncontrollable scope creep (and other mistakes) shouldn’t be as much of a problem. That circles back to the very first tip we mentioned: Don’t skip the kickoff meeting. In fact, if you take nothing else away from this post, at least remember that the kickoff meeting can set the course for how your product develops — in myriad ways. From defining the project to how you motivate your team to do their best work, the seed is planted at the kickoff meeting. As PM, you are the “Keeper of the Process” and the process starts there, right at the beginning. Good luck with starting your project right and avoiding the seven deadly sins of project management!