Contruent Blog

Top 5 Project Management Mistakes to Avoid

Project managers know that there are a lot of moving parts that go into making a project successful. We’ve compiled a list of the most common project management problems and the solutions to fix them.

1. Using Spreadsheets to Manage Your Project/Not Using a PM Tool

If you are still using Excel to manage large projects, stop! Using spreadsheets for project management in this day and age of tech and software is not only inefficient, it’s often faulty. Having to sift through spreadsheet after spreadsheet and cross-reference data that you hope is both current and accurate in order to build reports is inconvenient at its best and unscalable and error-prone at its worst. While Excel is great for analyzing data, it is not built for trustworthy reporting of data or project management. (Read our White Paper: Why Using Excel is Lining You Up for Failure.)

Many project managers realize this issue, and that is often where Microsoft Project comes into play. While better than Excel alone, MS Project has its own set of project management limitations.

MS Project Limitations:

  • MS Project is not built for collaboration which is a key element of every project. It is meant for a single user and most projects are too large to limit to single-user software programs. This also means that the approval process can (and ultimately will be) overridden and adjusted by whomever has the file saved on their computer without following approval protocol.
  • MS Project has no functionality to manage change orders. Changes happen during projects, and to audit how, when and why they need to be tracked. MS Project is not capable of doing this key project management task, and because there is no change order control, stakeholders cannot see the effects of cost and schedule attached to changes.
  • Change management is nearly impossible in MS Project, and thus having a single source of truth for project changes is nearly impossible. The Golden Thread of Change Management will not exist in MS Project if change occurs.
  • In addition to lacking communication functionality, MS Project is lacking out-of-the-box reports, business intelligence dashboards, updates and notifications.

Contruent Enterprise seamlessly integrates with MS Project and Oracle Primavera P6 out-of-the-box. This means that you can bring all of your cost and schedule data together in one centralized location that is auditable and accurate. Plus, multiple users can have access!

2. Using The Wrong Work Breakdown Structure (or Having No WBS at All)

Partial or even total project failures can often be attributed to a poorly developed or completely absent work breakdown structure (WBS). The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) defines a WBS as “a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. It organizes and defines the total scope of the project. Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed definition of the project work. The WBS is decomposed into work packages. The deliverable orientation of the hierarchy includes both internal and external deliverables.”

A WBS is a visual, hierarchical breakdown of a project’s objectives and scope. Before you begin any project or program, you have to break it down into smaller tasks to ensure you able to meet your objectives and deliverables along the way. Think of a WBS as a foundational outline for the project. Having a clearly defined WBS ensures clarity and understanding across all teams, including stakeholders.

Contruent Enterprise can deliver WBS data management that supports the secure, timely
organization of any changes within the WBS to all the relevant parts of the business. Establishing and defining a WBS is one of the five major pillars of project controls.

3. Poor Communication and Visibility with Stakeholders

Solve the misconception of project visibility equating to information overload by having reports that make sense to everyone involved. When everyone is staring at row after row on the PM’s spreadsheet, it can be difficult for anyone who’s not the spreadsheet owner to understand. If you have a project management software solution in place that can produce reports at different levels, you can easily avoid having uninformed teams and stakeholders. The ability to create custom reports and dashboards is key to creating transparent communication and visibility. Visibility for the project team, the project managers and executives/stakeholders are not one in the same. If executives do not have enterprise project visibility and access to dashboards that allow them to make accurate, well-informed decisions, projects may be delayed and/or may run over budget

Furthermore, it is no longer acceptable to have outdated data when you can have information in real-time. Stop reporting today on where the project was two weeks ago!

We’ve touched on this a little bit– but when using a PM software that is not robust, it leaves out team members and ultimately means that protocols are not followed for change management. If your tasks dates and task progress updates are not being displayed, then how are you effectively communicating your project’s status updates to stakeholders and other team members? It is important to have costs, changes and documentation tracked in one place for a single source of truth. These issues will exist if you are not using a system to track all of these project components in one place, and will cause further issues if you are running multiple projects that have overlapping resources. These components need to exist in one PM solution, whether it is built-in or integrated into the tool.

Integration does not have to be a nightmare. If you already have systems in use that are working, you can still bring all of your data together for optimal visibility.

4. Letting Changes Become Out of Control

If your project’s details are not all accessible in one place, it is difficult to make optimized decisions and easy to have projects run out of control. A lack in change management can cause projects to fail, as can the inability to determine the planned vs actual work budget. To properly align tasks to the budget and schedule, all the changes need to be tracked and traceable. If changes are not linked to a single source of truth, decision-making becomes a game of estimating and guessing.

Many projects’ change management is managed manually. Unfortunately, that means that the approval process is typically paper-based; leaving requests to sit on a desk awaiting a signature. Cut the wait times out and keep changes in check by implementing PM software that can automate change orders.

Having a robust project management software in place enhances and simplifies the decision-making process. Make better-informed and more accurate decisions with project management software. (Click to see how some of our customers have implemented Contruent to overhaul and improve their change management process.)

5. Underestimating Your Budget or Timeline

We already touched on a major project management mistake: Utilizing the wrong or no WBS. While a large part of underestimating a project’s budget or timeline comes from lacking a proper work breakdown structure, projects can also fail when the schedule and budget aren’t planned out well in correlation to the WBS. If you are not establishing the necessary framework for your project’s cost estimation or developing a schedule for your project’s deliverables, you are setting it up to fail. You cannot narrow down an overall timeline and budget without first compiling information around your project’s scope and deliverables.

Furthermore, fully breaking a project down into tasks and subtasks allows for them to be thought out further and fully defined, which often leads to discussions of potential budget or timeline obstacles BEFORE they happen, allowing teams to be better prepared for any speed bumps before they occur. This is just yet another argument for open communication in project management– When it is understood what and how each team member does their role in a project, project managers have better insight to create an accurate budget and project timeline. (Read our Time-Phased Budget vs Cost-Loaded Schedules white paper.)

Contruent Enterprise project controls software can help digitalize your projects. If your projects or programs are lacking communication, visibility or are consistently over-budget or past their deadlines, schedule a demo to see how Contruent can make and keep your projects on-time and on-budget today.