Project managers are one of the most critical roles in any project, especially in software development projects. Project management in any context is not easy, but handling scope creep, budget constraints, time limits, and development talent on the project team can be overwhelming when developing software.
Navigating the most prominent project management challenges requires more than good project management software. Projects fail all the time, even when they have access to the right project management software and a large budget. Often, the successful completion of any project requires a skilled project manager.
This post will examine the most common project management challenges project managers must be able to handle, and we will share tips on how to overcome project management challenges to deliver a successful project.
Common Project Management Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Project management challenges can occur anytime and take on many different shapes. The project manager guides team members through a project management challenge to ultimate project success.
We can’t possibly cover all of the project management challenges a project manager could potentially face. However, we can cover the most common project management problems and offer project managers practical solutions for addressing them.
The project management challenges most commonly faced by a project manager include the following:
- Misalignment between goals and business objectives
- Lack of accountability
- Resource allocation
- Scope creep
- Project management software
- Poor planning and unrealistic deadlines
Misalignment Between Goals and Business Objectives
One of the most common challenges affecting project teams is misalignment between project goals and business objectives. Typically, this issue arises due to poor project planning, but it is not always the project manager’s fault.
Unfortunately, too many organizations will fail to invest the time and effort required for thorough project planning. While a project manager might not always be responsible for poor project planning, they are responsible for completing the entire project.
The most effective way for project managers to ensure project goals and business objectives are aligned is to involve themselves in the project planning phase. But first, project managers should develop a business case for the project.
The business case will detail the business and financial benefits of successful project implementation. In addition, the business case ensures that project goals are closely tied to the organization’s overall objectives and business strategy.
Developing a business case during the project planning phase reduces the chances of pursuing a project that is not aligned with the organization’s overall objectives.
Poor communication between team members is one of the worst things that can affect a project team. Misunderstanding, miscommunications, and misinterpretations can cause strife between team members, lead to poor outcomes, and delay project completion.
Project managers are responsible for ensuring their project team is communicating effectively. Poor communication causes confusion, derailing project progress and destroying project teams from within.
An effective project manager can foster a strong communication standard for their project team with a clear and detailed communication plan. A communication plan will detail who is responsible for communicating what and how those communications should be sent, whether that is a memo, call, email, etc.
Project managers often utilize project management software as a central hub for correspondence, increase project visibility, and keep team members accountable.
Lack of Accountability
Without accountability, execution suffers. All team members have a vital role to play in the success of a project, but if they are not accountable, it will be challenging to finish the project with any degree of success.
Unfortunately, accountability issues commonly plague projects. Project managers are tasked with holding team members accountable and completing the project on time and within budget.
Accountability is closely tied to communication. If there are poor communication standards, holding any team member accountable for their actions will be difficult.
Project managers that want to establish clear responsibilities for team members need to effectively communicate responsibilities and expectations at the project’s outset. In addition, project managers must hold team members accountable to the organization’s standards.
Resource allocation is a common project management challenge that might be outside a project manager’s control. Many businesses struggle with budgeting and acquiring sufficient resources, especially when hiring software development talent.
Too often, project managers are asked to make do with their available resources, even if they are insufficient to successfully complete the project. When this occurs, tasks get assigned to team members, vendors, freelancers, etc., who might not have the skills or tools to complete the required project tasks.
A project manager can do little if an organization is unwilling or unable to provide the proper resources and budget for a project. However, before a project kicks off, project managers should ensure that every project deliverable is matched with the proper skills and tools to complete them.
If there are skill or tool gaps that exist, project managers must communicate these issues with the organization and stakeholders to ensure that they do everything they can to get the resources necessary to complete the project.
Scope creep is one of the most frustrating project management challenges for project managers. It is easy for projects to get out of control as stakeholders request new features, requirements, and other deliverables that were not part of the initial planning phase.
When organizations don’t have a clear idea of their goals or what they want to achieve with a project, scope creep is almost guaranteed to occur. It can be challenging to prevent this entirely, but project managers can do a few things to minimize scope creep.
Project managers can work closely with stakeholders at the outset to flesh out ideas, expectations, and requirements, so goals can clearly be identified. In addition, project managers should develop a change management process and communicate how last-minute changes affect the project and the team’s ability to execute efficiently.
Project Management Software
Using a project management tool that meets the team’s needs can be challenging for project managers. Since so many software solutions are available, choosing the right project management software can be difficult.
The best way for project managers to find the right software for their team and project is to consider what features are most important to the team. Meeting with team members to discuss software features most important to their tasks can be helpful.
However, project managers will likely have to weigh which features are most critical and which can be sacrificed while reviewing all options. Remember, the software options with every feature and function might not be the best tool for your project.
Poor Planning and Unrealistic Deadlines
One of the most significant errors a project manager can make is setting unrealistic deadlines. Project managers set unrealistic deadlines for several reasons, but the most common reasons for doing so are:
- Over optimistic
- Pressure from stakeholders
- Poor estimation skills
The most effective way to set deadlines that work for everyone is to have discussions with team members regarding the task, the amount of time it will take to review, and stakeholder expectations.
When stakeholder expectations are unrealistic or demanding, the project manager must communicate the project’s requirements and explain the time it will take to complete it.
Developing a reasonable schedule can be one of the most time-consuming tasks a project manager faces, but solid and realistic deadlines make the entire project easier to manage.
Project management is a skill that not everyone possesses. Therefore, this role is not for everyone. However, a good project manager can be the difference between success and failure. If you want to learn more about project management and software development, contact an experienced development partner like Koombea.