Our projects sometimes give us warning signs and they may not be obvious enough for us – as project managers or project team members – to notice them. The key is to be aware. And the key is to think up front and take precautions.

Indeed, there are several fairly obvious and logical precautions that project managers can take to help make sure that the project will reach its fullest potential and have it’s best chance at ending successfully. Project managers can keep the schedule up-to-date and make sure it reflects the latest design changes, new tasks, revised due dates, and task completions. And they can share this schedule information using a collaboration tool like Seavus’ Project Viewer. They should be aware that working with new or unfamiliar technology makes estimation less accurate. They should be sure that the scope of work is very clearly defined and agreed upon before doing the work. There should be clearly defined functionality and quality requirements, as well as agreement about the cost for delivering against these, adjusting as appropriate.

If major changes to the project are the result of outside influences like market changes, resource availabilities, etc., then it is essential to review the business case for any change in approach. The following are some useful tips that will help project managers detect early warning signs that a project may not be able to deliver the business benefits.

  • Users and project managers do not know - or do not agree on - how every part of the solution will be used to deliver business benefits.
  • The project sponsor, business managers, or project manager are not clear about mutual responsibility and accountability.
  • Plans do not include sufficient time to carry out the appropriate business analysis of risk.
  • No plan exists for accommodating scope change or new requirements.  This is disastrous – every project needs to have a change management plan in place.
  • The scope for the work is incomplete.  Poor requirements lead to scope creep, which increases the time and cost of delivering the solution.
  • New functionality simply does not work, and time and cost increase as effort is expended to make it work.  Rework is bad.  Unanticipated break/fix work at the end of the project to get it rolled out is even worse as it can sometimes seem to go on forever.
  • Insufficient time, money, or resources are allocated to the project.
  • Testing and quality have not been well-planned out leaving the chance that a poorly tested solution may be rolled out to end users.
  • End users have not been involved in the project – meaning the final solution may not be what the customer needs.

These are just a few warning signs. What are yours?