Here are the top six reasons why projects are late and what we can do about it...
1) Unrealistic Deadlines
- As we've reported here before, this is one of the most frequently overlooked reasons for late projects---and unfortunately, often the last thing people look at.Solution:
It's imperative for a project manager to defend the right plan and not give in to pressure to sacrifice good principles. If necessary, negotiate to time-box the project into multiple phases.
2) Customer/Partner Availability
- I've seen numerous project managers over the years talk about the challenges they face keeping a project on schedule when they're waiting on a customer or business partner to do testing or sign off on some deliverable.Solution:
Set milestones, monitor progress, and raise an issue if the lack of availability will cause a delay. If necessary, negotiate a new project baseline---which may be quite appropriate if the customer and/or steering team agrees that a delay is acceptable.
3) Resource Availability
- There's nothing worse than putting together a reasonable schedule only to have your key resources pulled off into different directions, but it happens more often than we care to admit.Solution:
Try to obtain full commitment up front for your resources' time. Even so, unexpected conflicts will happen. Same as #2 above, set milestones, monitor progress, and raise an issue if needed. Again, negotiation may be necessary, which can result in getting your resources back or in setting a new project baseline to accommodate the new priorities.
- Especially in the IT field, uncertainty is a given. At any time, unexpected circumstances may cause project delays.Solution:
Use rolling wave scheduling, planning the whole project from a high level, but only the nearest 90-day horizon in detail. Try agile approaches as well, aiming for prototypes and frequent iterations. Ideally, pilot the project, and aim for vertical rollouts (one group at a time). Build contingency into your schedule for known risks. Most of all, manage stakeholder expectations.
5) Management Decision
- Sometimes, management makes a conscious decision to delay a project, either for strategic needs, changes in priorities, or any number of reasons.Solution:
If the delay is a management or customer decision, a new project baseline should be saved, with current metrics based on that. Note that it's also important to keep the original baseline, as that offers a different set of measures (mostly around organizational alignment).
6) Poor Estimates
- Sometimes a project is late simply because tasks were underestimated or omitted from the schedule. Although this is not always the cause of project delays (and rarely the only cause), it tends to be the first one people look at.Solution:
Build experience and capture historical data by project category and activity. If the data isn't categorized it won't be useful. Create and maintain checklists of items to consider. Build project schedule templates. The most frequently overlooked areas in IT are: training, data-loading, cutover preparation, system network testing, adequate QA testing, and documentation.
Labels: agile, alignment, customer, customer-experience, cutover-preparation, it-project, people, plan, principles, project-manager, project-plan, project-planning, project-schedule, project-teams, risk-management, training