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Five Common IT Project Management Mistakes

IT project management is complex, and mistakes are common. However, certain mistakes can have significant consequences, such as project delays, cost overruns, and even project failure. Over the next few blogs, I will discuss five common IT project management mistakes and provide a few insights that can help avoid some of the pitfalls. These discussions will include the following:
1. Poor Project Scope Definition
2. Inadequate Risk Management
3. Ineffective Communication
4. Deficient Resource Planning
5. Lack of Project Governance
This blog will focus on Poor Project Scope Define

Poor Project Scope Definition

Poor scope definition is one of the most common IT project management mistakes. Scope refers to the objectives, deliverables, and tasks that define the boundaries of a project. In other words, scope describes what, why, when, and budget of the project. Just imagine being told by your supervisor “go build a RED widget, and I need it tomorrow” …  Where would you start?… You get the point? Failure to clearly define the scope of an IT project leads to unexpected outcomes, missed deadlines, cost overruns and maybe moreover a negative hit to your brand due to customer dissatisfaction. A clear scope definition ensures that the project objects are clearly understood by both the requester and the project team. It helps to create shared expectations between the parties and sets the boundaries of the project and prevents “scope creep”.

Scope Creep (also known as “requirement creep” or “feature creep”) happens when the key stakeholders continually change the requirements of the project over the project lifecycle. Please note that scope creep can also happen due to misunderstanding and miscommunication within the project team. That said, Scope Creep is not always a bad thing. Customer needs evolve over time and delivering a project that answers their needs often means altering the scope. Scope creep is, therefore, a reality that every good project manager expects and plans for and should be ready to control (Agile).

Now that we understand a bit better the downside of a poorly defined project definition, let’s look at some ways we can minimize the negative effects:

  • Involve stakeholders early in the project planning process. The sooner the better, having a understanding the “why” of the project will facilitate better understanding and make it easier to build consensus.
  • Clearly define the project objectives upfront and Write Down your deliverables. The project objectives should be written and serve as the contract between the stakeholders.
  • Define a change management process and enforce it. Let’s face it, no matter how well a project is defined, change will happen. A good It project manage will have an agreed upon change management process. As stated above, not all changes in a project’s lifecycle are bad.

Well defined project definition will help to reduce the overall project cost, it will facilitate on-time delivery, it will ensure quality, and paramount to it all ensure a satisfied customer. There are many books and whitepapers written on the importance of a good project scope definition. Below are a few resources should you want to do a bit more research on the topic:

Forbes Advisor – Scope Creep: Definition, Examples & How To Prevent It

Wrike – How to combat the 4 Main Sources of Scope Creep

Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects (Best Practices in Portfolio, Program, and Project Management)  (ISBN-10 1482259486)

Inadequate Risk Management

IT projects are inherently risky. Failure to adequately manage these risks can lead to delays, cost overruns, and even project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “risk is a part of everything. The key is to acknowledge it and face it head-on” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid inadequate risk management, IT project managers should identify potential risks early in the project planning process. This can be done through techniques such as brainstorming and risk mapping. Once risks have been identified, IT project managers should prioritize them based on their likelihood and impact on the project. Mitigation strategies should then be developed and implemented to reduce the likelihood and impact of these risks.

Poor Communication

Effective communication is critical to the success of any IT project. Failure to communicate effectively can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “communication is key, but over-communication is even better” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid poor communication, IT project managers should establish clear lines of communication with stakeholders early in the project planning process. Regular project status updates should be provided to stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, IT project managers should establish a communication plan that outlines the frequency and method of communication.

Inadequate Resource Planning

IT projects require a significant number of resources, including time, money, and personnel. Failure to adequately plan for these resources can lead to delays, cost overruns, and project failure. According to Kaplan and Fried, “resources are finite. Make sure you know what you need before you start” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010).

To avoid inadequate resource planning, IT project managers should conduct a thorough analysis of the resources required for the project. This can be done through techniques such as resource leveling and resource allocation. Additionally, IT project managers should develop a resource plan that outlines the required resources and their availability throughout the project lifecycle.

Poor Project Governance

Poor project governance is another common IT project management mistake. Governance refers to the framework of policies, procedures, and guidelines that ensure that a project is executed effectively and efficiently. Failure to establish proper project governance can lead to project failure.

According to Kaplan and Fried, “governance is a system of checks and balances” (Kaplan and Fried, 2010). In other words, proper project governance ensures that the project team is accountable for their actions and that the project is aligned with the needs of the business or stakeholders.  

IT project management is a complex process that requires careful planning, execution, and monitoring. Common IT project management mistakes, such as poor communication, lack of planning, inadequate resource management, failure to manage risks, and poor team management, can lead to project failure. Project managers must be aware of these mistakes and take steps to avoid them. By doing so, they can increase the chances of project success and deliver quality IT projects on time, within budget, and with the highest quality.

Claude Bird

Project Management Office Lead

About Columbia Advisory Group

Founded in Dallas in 2012, Columbia Advisory Group LLC (CAG) is an established IT consulting firm renowned for delivering cost-effective, meaningful, and practical IT solutions that solve complex business problems. Our seasoned teams offer comprehensive insight across diverse regulatory and economic environments, providing unbiased, straightforward analysis and recommendations. We pride ourselves on our deep understanding of IT while remaining software and hardware-agnostic. Regardless of your organization’s growth trajectory or economic landscape, we at CAG are adept at adapting to your unique needs and complexity, offering tailored solutions to drive your success.

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