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5 Deadly Risks In Project Management
By Anand Agarwal

Any mission which can be divided into concrete tasks and needs human involvement to perform those tasks can be termed as a project. The human intervention calls for collaboration, allocation of resources and flow of information and data which actually requires management. There are many different kinds of projects and these vary across the verticals.

Though the type of projects may vary across industries, they are primarily based on same fundamentals. Broadly, any project works around the same areas starting with the scope, technology requirement, people, budget, and duration. The iterations within each area define the project tasks and if not done properly can lead to dangerous risks developing through the project’s lifecycle.

According to a study done in 2004 (along ten years of IT projects in the US), by Standish Group International Inc., about 18% of the projects failed, 53% were over time or budget and only 29% succeeded. The low rate of success can be attributed mainly to certain approaches in project management which increase the risk of failure. To avoid project doom, it is important to understand the risks that get generated, often unconsciously, in project management. I will try to illustrate these inadvertent risks with projects carried out in the IT industry.

  1. Errors in Estimation

    When the planning and estimation of any project does not closely involve the business and the development teams, there are bound to be many reasons which could disrupt the schedule of the entire projects. Any disruption in one of the areas cascades as risks in subsequent steps, thereby derailing the entire project. Naturally, this will affect the delivery and you will end up with an unhappy customer who will (next time) approach your competitor. And if you happen to be a start-up, then you would have dug your own grave.

    In order to avoid errors in scheduling, it is important that the Business Teams (end-users) work closely with the Business Analyst, the Project Manager(s) and the Project Architect. These four domain specialists should work in coherence with each other. The Project Manager in turn must work with the Development Team and the Testing Team. There should also be Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who can be involved during the planning and estimation stage in order to understand the Business Requirements more clearly. Planning and estimation should be very carefully done passing through many iterations in order to reach near perfection.

    To avoid increasing number of iterations it is best to bring in the experience from similar projects implemented in the past. It is also advisable to use smart application management (ALM) tools in order to avoid project failure.

  2. Requirements Overload

    The error in requirements gathering, planning and estimation will disrupt the schedule at every step of the projects lifecycle. If many features keep getting added later during the development phases it will translate into the risk of requirements ‘overload’. Obviously the project will trip at many places through its lifecycle.

  3. Lack of Project Charter

    Many a time documentation work is relegated or postponed simply because it is less appealing and considered more clerical. But Project Managers fail to understand that as the project progresses through its lifecycle, proper documentation should also be done simultaneously. The most dangerous thing that can happen is when one of the core team members quits the organization during a critical phase. If there is no proper documentation then the critical information will go away with that outgoing team member. Obviously, this will lead to the risk of wasting essential resource of time.

  4. Integration Anomalies

    The fourth type of risk is aggravated more as a result factor of the first three anomalies. Right from the beginning, if you keep taking these deadly risks, then the side effects will certainly surface by the integration stage. There might have been some conflicting assumptions that would have been formed during the race against time. Later, the integration and testing will bomb and the project would have over-shot the budget and timeline by then.

  5. Lesser Productivity during Early Stages

    If you have schedules in your project with longer deadlines for various milestones, then usually the initial stages suffer with lesser productivity. This is another deadly risk which the team takes unconsciously. It leads to pile-up of uncompleted tasks pushing them more towards the later stages. Hence, the experts advise on having shorter duration milestones as it becomes more manageable. Shorter durations always generate a sense of urgency among the team members as the deadlines are always ‘seemingly’ close. This helps in tasks usually being completed on schedule.

Anand Agarwal is the CEO & Co-Founder at Sensible Softwares Pvt. Ltd. You can read more from Anand on his blog.

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