According to a PwC report, 97 per cent of organisations believe that project management is critical for the performance and success of a business. However, despite the astounding statistic, all is not hunky dory in the project management landscape.

Let me tell you why:

  • Most businesses experience a project failure rate of 70 per cent. [com]
  • Only 2.5 per cent of organizations can complete 100 per cent of their projects successfully. [Gallup]
  • Over one in three projects (33.3 per cent) have no baseline or direction. [Wellingtone]
  • Only 56 per cent of project managers hold the certification to do their job. Even the specialists at corporates such as IBM are no exception. [Wrike]

Therefore, it isn’t surprising to witness a majority of organisations being unable to complete a project within a specific timeframe and budget. These mistakes lead to reduced performance, cause delays in delivery and in worst cases lead to major failures thereby hampering the growth of a business.

Although each project has its own separate set of issues, why do so many projects fail? There are certain predictable and recurring sinkholes to watch out for before they doom your client projects. They can either make or break your business.

1. Lack of a clear business objective

68 per cent of projects are devoid of active business leaders who can provide direction or address bottlenecks. [Wrike]

The primary requirement for a project to succeed is setting clear goals. How can you start your journey when you’re clueless about the destination?

Similarly, if you haven’t found answers to critical questions like “What is the purpose of this project” or “What is its importance to the brand”, the chances of your project seeing the light of the day are minimal.

A Pulse of Profession survey found “inadequate vision” to be the fourth common cause of project failure. Although the leadership has the desired outcome fixed, they fail to pinpoint the exact goal they’d want to achieve and the KPI’s to be used to measure the objective. How can you come up with an effective roadmap in this situation?

Poor goal setting is a result of a lack of consensus among the leaders regarding the direction of the progress or the success criteria. A drastic change in the requirements can also lead to unclear goals.

Some effective tips to identify and establish clear goals for a project are:

  • Your goals follow the SMART criteria – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
  • The stakeholders’ expectations must be in sync from the time the project is started.
  • While evaluating the timelines, research the historical data available to calibrate the goals. If your company has managed such a project in the past, check the data to validate if your goals are manageable or irrational.
  • Involve your team members in goal setting and planning. Research proves that collaborative goal-setting makes the team feel more involved, accountable and satisfied.

Successful project management thrives on predefined goals. And without those goals, it’s challenging for a project manager and his or her team to work in the right direction.

Tip

Sit with your senior management team and chalk out business objectives. A lack of clear goals is the reason why 37 per cent of projects fail. Don’t let that happen to your business.

2. Undefined team responsibilities

It’s crucial for teams across an organisation to be clear about their responsibilities and KPIs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen most of the time. That’s where holding a “kickoff meeting” before the beginning of a project makes a difference.

By the end of that meeting, every single team member should have an understanding of what they are supposed to do in the project as an individual and how their contribution is going to fuel the project’s goals.

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“We were confused with where to start” is the last thing you want to hear from your project managers. Defining team responsibilities indirectly boosts employee morale because they are made aware of how their work is adding value to the organisation.

Tip

Make your project managers use Gantt charts so that the team members are always aware of their responsibilities and they stay on schedule.

3. Lack of project prioritisation

Only 20 per cent of project managers have their projects aligned with their organisation’s business strategy. [Changepoint]

It is humanly impossible for your project managers to take a dive into a humongous project and immediately start breezing through the deadlines. And before you know, they start dragging their feet to finish the job; thus, affecting your organization’s overall goals.

Break down the project into smaller and doable tasks. The assigned team can then work in steps and checkpoints that help them better to remain on track.

The core of project management relies on deciding attainable and realistic goals which are easily achievable. The project should be segmented in such a way that the assigned team makes progress every day.

The two effective ways to deal with this, to save additional headache and hassle is to:

  • Categorize the tasks as – critical, important and good-to-do. This helps the team to be more productive.
  • Follow the 80-20 rule. 20 per cent of the tasks will lead to 80 per cent of productivity. Identify that 20 per cent of the tasks and assign a high-level of urgency to them.

Tip

Manage your projects in the structure of a portfolio to identify the high-priority tasks.

4. Hiring the wrong project manager

A project cannot be successful if the resources are not properly allocated. The reason why the project manager is indispensable in this process is because he/she identifies the objective, the problem to be solved, gathers inputs from the management and team members decides the objectives and chalks a pathway of activities to deliver the expected results.

The next step for the project manager is to plan and schedule daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks, supervise the execution, monitor the progress, evaluate the team’s performance, bring the project to a successful end and capture the learnings.

The modern-day manager performs tasks similar to the traditional manager including:

  • Creating a framework for activities involved in the project
  • Identifying the resources needed
  • Recruiting more members as and when needed
  • Setting milestones
  • Coordinating with various teams
  • Keeping the work on a track and setting a clear vision
  • Ensuring that everyone in the team participates and benefits
  • Mediating conflicts
  • Ensuring that the milestones are delivered on time and within the decided budget

Tip

A good project manager can make or break a business. Therefore, take your time and decide on strong profiles so that your output isn’t affected, and your employees can tap into their potential to the fullest.

5. Faulty communication

59 per cent of project managers feel that communication is the biggest obstacle to business success. [Atlassian]

Communication plays a huge role in making sure the project remains on the right track. While it is essential to conduct a “kickoff meeting” at the start of a project, it is equally necessary to have sprint planning meetings, either on a daily or weekly basis.

This helps the project manager stay informed about the progress of the project and resolve the bottlenecks as soon as they arise for quicker completion.

You can then get your project managers to give you a status report of the work periodically, thus maintaining transparent communication across the organization.

Tip

Implement collaboration and web conferencing tools such as Slack, Wimi, WebEx, GoToMeeting and others within the company to ensure your employees are well connected – irrespective of location or time.

6. Overlooking the importance of a project management tool

The global project management software market is predicted to grow steadily between 2017-2020. [Technavio]

Signs that your business should adopt a project management tool:

  • The projects are delayed due to unnecessary email correspondences, with the important messages getting buried in the team member’s inboxes.
  • Confusion arising from non-easy-to-decipher spreadsheets.
  • Missed timelines and deadlines due to a failure of accountability, poor planning and non-transparency in the project.
  • Poor communication between the team members and various stakeholders due to failure to generate regular reports on the project as well as individual tasks.
  • Overlapping or confusion in the division of work due to failure to establish clear roles of each team member.

When selecting a project management tool, here are some of the most important features you should look for:

  • Creating, assigning and tracking tasks
  • Resource planning and tracking
  • Dashboards for project performance
  • Graphical and detailed project performance reports
  • Team collaboration
  • Integrations with additional tools such as Dropbox, Zappier, Google Drive, Google Sheets and Google Calendar to name some

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SmartTask, online project management and collaboration tools are used by freelancers, startups, small and medium businesses and enterprises to improve their productivity by almost 40 per cent.

Tip

Sit for a couple of demos before choosing your project management tool. A number of features, pricing, and customer support are the three main factors that will influence your decision.

If you are confused between two or more software, sign up for a trial version to pick the project management tool most suitable for your company. Customer reviews on G2Crowd and Capterra help you understand the problems users face with such tools as well as their benefits over competitors.

Wrapping up

Project management is not a static agenda, but an ever-evolving element of every organization.
When assembling your team of project managers, make sure they are analytical, people-oriented and flexible in the way they operate.

Don’t forget to pick the right project management software for the teams. That’s going to make all the difference to your business!

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