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Why Digital Projects Go Wrong – Top 3 Obstacles in Project Management

We often embrace new projects with great enthusiasm in the beginning. But who hasn’t experienced a project going wrong despite ample dedication and high motivation? Or at least, obstacles arise that lead to project delays, additional costs, and a drop in motivation.

Here are my top 3 problems in project management which should be avoided:


Friday afternoon surprise

Friday afternoon, the project is once again drastically altered; responsibilities are newly delegated; an unexpected management presentation gets added to the agenda, or the budget is reduced. Of course, right before the weekend or even a vacation.

Bas de Baar has written a book on this subject: ” Surprise! Now You’re a Software Project Manager” is a weekend read that allows newly appointed project managers to at least know the basics by Monday.

Such surprises on Friday afternoon can severely disrupt the project. Partly to blame is an overflowing inbox: The person responsible for the surprise may just want to quickly wrap up his or her emails before the weekend, and under stress, some task or responsibility may be handed off or escalated at the last minute.

Here we must check ourselves and be aware of the impact that a simple email can have. In addition, establishing a clear project structure, targeted communication with stakeholders, and a shared project culture all help to avoid surprises of this kind.

Unnecessary escalations occur more often if the project organization is not communicated clearly.

A colleague who does not know whom to contact, contacts his or her superiors or sends mass emails. If the project organization is communicated clearly, the likelihood increases that the correct person is contacted and unnecessary agitation is avoided.

Unclear budget authority in the project

Any project manager will agree that the project budget should be in the hands of the for the project responsible person or department.

The saying, “whoever has the money has the power,” is not without truth.

Of course, project management should not be based on the principle of power―but especially during a project crisis, control over the budget is worth a great deal. Divided budgets for specific responsibilities are also a feasible option. Nevertheless, I often see projects in which the budget is not in the hands of those responsible because of internal or organizational reasons.

Take a website for example: For whatever reason, the majority of the budget often lies with the IT department, even though marketing or communications are responsible for the overall project objectives. Typical of this are shadow budgets that are then used to enforce individual project objectives: Goodbye, cost accounting. Not only the organizational structure has to be clarified in project management but also the allocation of the budget.

Lack of joint understanding about the project

IT and business departments have different internal goals. Given the different responsibilities, this is rightly so. But for a joint project, it is essential that a joint understanding about the project is fostered with everyone involved―and possibly even with external interests such as software vendors and agencies. Far too often, the same thing is talked about but understood differently.

One major problem I see are the long feature request lists that often exist regarding the implementation of digital projects.

“The whole is more than the sum of its parts”, said Aristotle.

The problem is that the number of checks on the feature request list does not indicate anything about the interplay of these functions. In other words, the business process depends on a number of process steps and individual software functions. For this reason, methods such as story telling, wireframing, and prototyping have been established. These help to build a joint understanding.

What is your experience?

These are just a few examples from the Advatera Digital Managers Network. Through good project management, these problems can be avoided or at least reduced.

How did you proceed when faced with similar challenges?

Image source: stutterstock / PathDoc


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