8 common project management mistakes and how to avoid them

 8 common project management mistakes and how to avoid themSo many projects, so much mismanagement. That's the refrain of many IT executives. Indeed, even with project management software, IT projects often wind up taking longer (much longer) than planned and costing more than budgeted.

While no two projects are exactly the same, the issues that can affect — and potentially jeopardize — them are often quite similar. And even good project managers can make mistakes when wrangling a big, complex project — or when being bombarded with change requests.

Here's what IT executives and project management professionals told us are the all-too-common mistakes they see project managers make — and advice for avoiding them.

Mistake #1: Not meeting with the whole team and setting goals upfront

“It’s important for the entire team to know roles and responsibilities and deliverables” right from the start, said Shami Ahuja, director of agile practice at technology consulting firm Nisum. This is why it’s a good idea to hold a kickoff meeting with all stakeholders.

“A kickoff meeting helps [define and set] expectations — and [ultimately] makes the team more self-dependent and self-organized. It also instills a higher level of accountability and ownership [of the project].”

Mistake #2: Not breaking down (big) projects into smaller pieces

“Breaking [a] large project into small, manageable pieces will make the team feel more comfortable and confident that they can successfully tackle what may seem like an impossible project and [accomplish] each task,” said Sid Soil, owner of document imaging and storage provider DOCUdavit.

To avoid leaving your team feeling overwhelmed, “take the time to understand each facet of the project.” Then “break the project into small pieces, and break those small pieces into smaller pieces if you can.” And assign each task to the team members who are best suited to accomplish them.

Mistake #3: Not prioritizing projects and/or tasks

“Many IT departments have multiple, concurrent projects running, for both internal and external customers,” explains Cortney Thompson, CIO of data center services provider Green House Data. And “too many times, we see staff keeping their head down on a project that is a lower priority while a higher visibility project starts to slip.”

That’s why it’s important for — and the job of — the project manager to let team members know what tasks should take priority and when priorities have changed. “Clearly communicating project priorities can help save a lot of hassle and headache,” he said.