15 Ways to Screw Up an IT Project

Project management experts discuss sure-fire ways to delay or derail a project and--more importantly--how you can avoid these common project management pitfalls.

By Jennifer Lonoff Schiff
Wed, July 17, 2013

CIO — Paul Simon famously sang that there must be 50 ways to leave your lover. Similar could be said (if not sung) regarding projects: There must be 50 ways to screw up your IT projects. Indeed, ask IT executives and project management experts, as CIO.com did, and they will rattle off dozens of reasons why projects go astray. For the sake of brevity, however, we are starting with the top 15 ways to derail a project--and how to avoid these project management pitfalls.

1. Having a poor or no statement of work. "I've seen many projects encounter troubles due to the lack of a well-defined project scope," says Bryan Fangman, senior project manager at Borland, a Micro Focus Company.

"Despite the best planning efforts, change is inevitable, so having a clear statement of work up front is essential in getting agreement with the customer on what will actually be accomplished," Fangman says. "A poorly constructed statement of work (or absence of one) will lead to ambiguities that are hard to resolve and you will never truly know when the project is finished," he adds.

2. Not setting expectations up front. One of the key ways to screw up a project is to not create a roadmap and define project requirements and expectations for all stakeholders at the beginning of the project.

[Related: 7 Must-Have Project Management Skills for IT Pros]

That's why "before we start any projects, I make sure that everyone on both the customer team and project team have a clear, documented understanding of two primary things: What we are going to do, and how we know when we are done," says Tim Garcia, CEO, Apptricity, which provides service-oriented architecture (SOA) for asset management enterprise resource planning (ERP). "Without documented agreement on the answers to these two questions, the project is in danger from the start."

3. Not securing management buy-in. "Executing a project without securing sponsor support is not only counter-productive but also a recipe for disaster," says Brad Clark, COO at Daptiv, a provider of on-demand Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions. "It's imperative to be on the same page with the sponsor for a project to move in the desired direction and get organizational buy-in."

4. Using the same methodology for all size projects. "Most project management methodologies have a standard set of key tasks and deliverables for enterprise IT projects," says Robert Longley, a consultant at Intuaction, a coaching and consulting company.

"Most methodologies are designed around projects of a certain size (i.e., $1 million plus)." Longley says. "If you have a project that is $100,000 and you try to use the standard approach, you may find that it costs more to do the deliverables than it does to do the actual project."

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