We’ve read the top 20 posts about the pitfalls of Project Management. Then we interviewed a few experienced PMs from various industries and got them to tell us about the secret pitfalls no one told you about. You won’t find these in any of the top 20 posts on this subject.

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The Project Management Pitfalls No One Told You About

The pitfall: Becoming the manager from Dilbert

How to avoid it: Get to know the project inside and out. You need to dig into the details on tasks you couldn’t complete yourself and research anything wildly unfamiliar. Your curiosity will make you better at forecasting time frames and burn out rates. It will also allow you to ask the kind of breakthrough questions that prevent miscommunication and project catastrophes. By Nicole Hayward, VP Marketing & Product Management at OnSIP.

Pifall: Not Aligning functionality with business needs

Avoiding: Ensure the project and proposed functionality are align with the company’s business needs. You do this by distinguishing the “nice to haves” from the features that contribute directly to the ROI and to the business justification of the project. This will make prioritizing easy as well as resource scheduling needs. By Kelly Bedrich, Director of IT for APQC.

Separate the nice-to-haves from the features that contribute to the ROI. This will make prioritizing easy

Pitfall: Informing clients of problems last minute

Avoiding: Any time an issue comes up that might lead to an increase in scope and/or budget, inform your client (that includes both outside clients or stake holders in your own company) as soon as possible. This will ensure continued trust while keeping the timeline and budget on track. By Judith Wellner, Project Lead at Launch Brigade and over 10 years as a PM.

Pitfall: Losing focus to “drive-bys”

Avoiding: For IT folks involved in big projects, it’s easy to get distracted by “drive-bys” and random user requests that take your eyes off the project or your planned work for the day. When your team needs focused working time, do mini-sprints – reserve a dedicated block of time on everyone’s calendars and find an out-of-the-way conference room. Go inside, shut the door, and intensely focus on one specific activity, task or issue. No email, no phones, no messaging. Just work on one specific problem, and accomplish the task you identified before you started. Kelly Bedrich, Director of IT for APQC.

Pitfall: Giving users what they want

Avoid: Spend a disproportionate amount of time learning the difference between what users ask for and what they actually need. If it were up to most users, the majority of mobile apps available today would simply be digitized versions of the paper forms and manual processes they used before. By recognizing what people need, you can increase their efficiency, and as a result, their desire for your product. Julian Clayton, VP Product at FieldLens serial founder.

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Experienced Project Managers Share Their Number One Advice

Make the client a member of your team

Make it clear to the client from the very first moment that they are a member of the team. This establishes a relationship that will lead to more realistic expectations and a different sense of ownership both for the team and for the client. Judith Wellner, Project Lead at Launch Brigade and over 10 years a PM.

Do the least amount of work possible to achieve the goal

Your goal needs to be the solution to the user’s problem and nothing less. Tacking on assumptions and theories will almost always end up producing waste. That’s bad for the product and for the pieces that follow it because it robs time from their development. If you have a product that is built of 10 pieces, don’t build all 10. Build 1, then take the feedback from 1 and use it to build 2. Or better yet, decide if 2 is actually a critical part of the solution for your user. More often than not you’ll find that not all 10 pieces are useful and you’ll save yourself a lot of waste. Julian Clayton, VP of Product at FieldLens and serial founder.

If a product has 10 pieces, don’t build all 10. Build 1, then use the feedback to build 2

Use your team to choose your tools

Choosing project management tools – collaboration, tracking etc. is very important. And as PM, it’s your job to make sure it’s the right tool, and more importantly, that it’s a tool the team will stick with. Otherwise you’ll be chasing people for answers and solving miscommunication problems instead of focusing on progress. What’s worked well for me, since everyone has their tool of choice, is to consult in my team. Choosing a tool that most of them know and like ensures that they stick to it and are happy to use it. Avishai Sam Bitton, Marketing Director at imonomy and 10 years a PM.

Identify meaningful scope

Change in scope is inevitable. So you need to identify meaningful scope. Some PMs approach features or tasks in a sequential manner. What you can do instead is tackle the features that influence the client’s business the most at the start. This will give more room for the client to bask in the idea and make critical changes earlier rather than later. Changes made to a project cost more as time goes by. A change to a project in production is more costly due to the complexity than a change made to a project during development. Rishal Hurbans, Senior Software Engineer Team Lead at Entelect.

Have a sound implementation plan

Having an implementation plan that incorporates all of its aspects is critical to a successful project. You can have the best looking project plan in the world, but if the implementation and strategic planning suffer, so will your project. Yvette Schmitter, Network Services Program Manager Government Programs at Emblem Health and over 16 years as PM.

Help clients solve a real business problem

By helping clients realize the impact of their ideas and visions for solutions, you enable them to think about the problem it’s solving and the value it’s adding to their business. This leads to more personal investment from the client as well as a more defined scope and goal for the solution. This also results in a more confident and motivated development team since the solution is clear and strongly backed by the client and PM. Rishal Hurbans, Senior Software Engineer Team Lead at Entelect.

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