Projects often involve a lot of time and money, making it essential to minimise risks, attempt to avoid the common project hazards and maximise returns. Unfortunately, even when selecting a seasoned project management partner, there are still a number of pitfalls to be avoided, says Yolandi Nortje, executive of Intuate Group. 
Nortje believes that the top most common project pitfalls are:
* Lack of communication, including progress reporting;
* Unclear project objectives;
* Failure to adequately identify, document and track requirements; and
* Failure to set and manage expectations.
Lack of communication
Once a project is in full swing, a common issue is communication. Most project teams use e-mail to communicate updates about their projects and tasks. The problem here is that project communication resides in each individual’s inbox.
So, if a new resource joins the project, there is no centralised view of the project history. Similarly, should a team member hit “reply”, rather than “reply all”, then valuable communication may not be properly dispersed.
At a bare minimum, all project and task communication should be posted in a centralised location, so that any and all resources have full visibility, whilst a new team member can get up to speed rapidly by reviewing the entire project history.
Unclear project objectives
Most organisations have more opportunities and project initiatives than they can ever hope to fulfil, and many initiate more than they probably should. If executive management is not clear on project priorities, then it follows that the entire organisation will be unclear about which projects are the most important.
It is the role of executive management to determine the organisation’s long term goals and the strategies for attaining those goals. Only once these goals are clearly defined, can project initiatives be ranked against these goals.
Failure to adequately identify, document and track requirements
The good news is that for the most part, project managers accept the idea that requirements need to be identified, documented and tracked. Misunderstandings regarding requirements must be revealed and cleared up as early as possible because the cost of fixing them goes up exponentially as the project progresses.
Failure to set and manage expectation
We know that setting expectations and then managing them is a key project success factor. To quote the PMBoK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) guide: “Proper scope definition is critical to project success.”
Problems arise when the setting and managing of expectations and scope are overly informal or excessively formal. In other words, if expectations are documented in a way that is unclear or too open to interpretation, or not documented at all, it is difficult or even impossible to manage them because there will be a continuous lack of agreement regarding what they mean.
Conversely, if expectations and the means of managing them are too rigid and set in stone, there will be insufficient flexibility to accommodate requests for the project scope changes that must be accommodated because of normal business changes during project execution.
To use a term that is hot right now, we need “extreme” communication, this means frequent communication with the customer, on scope and the impacts that are driving scope in order to manage expectations well.
Projects, no matter how big or small, will influence the current operations of an organisation. There will be a business process, or put simply “a way of doing things”, which will be impacted by what is being implemented. Successfully managing a project means that every aspect or possible impact on the organisation has been thought of and managed.
It is critical therefore to ensure that communication and change management form part of the project deliverables.
At Intuate Group, we work to ensure that the application meets the client existing and future needs. A study by the Standish Group demonstrated that many IT projects not only fail to deliver the benefits predicted, but that 75% of the software developed was either never used or was cancelled prior to delivery.
To ensure that there is no gap between implementation and use, it is critical that all the users are trained, kept aware of the changes and managed through them accordingly, and that the application can be supported by the internal staff once the project is completed.
Once this is done, it is still not time for us to up-and-leave, rather we remain in the organisation for a mentorship period afterwards, to ensure that the product is fully operational and utilised. This is the only way to guarantee return on investment.
Governance and quality are critical factors and should form part of project managers’ and administrators’ key performance indicators. The Intuate Group project management methodology is based on industry best practice, but over the years we have also documented our own methodologies.
Intuate do not follow a standard off-the-shelf project management methodology for all types of deployments, but rather call on specific product methodologies also, which directly pertain to the specific types of projects, from data centre relocations to infrastructure implementations. This means that we come to our clients with years of collective experience and specific know-how.