Everyone makes mistakes at work. If we didn’t, we’d likely never improve our professional skills, innovate, or evolve as human beings. These blunders and missteps are essential for growth and, in most cases, easy to overcome. But some mistakes are a bit more severe and a lot more expensive. In those cases, it’s best to learn from someone else’s flub before you commit the same error yourself.
This is especially true in the world of IT & MSP project management which is full of opportunities for big, costly mistakes that can threaten outcomes and negatively impact your entire organization. Fortunately for you, plenty of IT and MSP pros have already been down this path, identified the hazards, and charted a new way forward.
Here are five of the most dangerous (and common) IT project management mistakes and what you can do to avoid them:
Not Having Clearly Defined Goals
You should never begin a project without identifying and documenting an explicit goal and ensuring everyone involved commits to that objective.
Successful goals don’t leave anything up for interpretation, and one method to help ensure you’re covering all your bases is to write SMART goals. (SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.)
For example, suppose you’re in charge of setting up workstations at a new office space. Your SMART goal might look like this:
We will set up 125 workstations, each including a new monitor, keyboard, mouse, and HDMI cord, by Friday, November 4, 2022. This will allow one week to test all workstation equipment and order any necessary replacements before staff arrives on Monday, November 14, 2022.
It’s specific (including the number of workstations and the items included in each workstation), measurable (you can easily track the number of completed workstations), achievable (the team has adequate time to complete the setup), relevant (completing setup on time allows time for testing), and time-bound (the project has a hard deadline).
Nearly every major profit-leeching, performance-killing problem in a company can be traced back to at least one breakdown in communication. And usually, poor communication has a ripple effect throughout the entire organization, causing even more trouble in its wake. That’s why it’s best to nip it in the bud.
As a project leader, clear and consistent communication is your superpower. The more effective you are in clarifying goals, timelines, milestones, performance benchmarks, and the division of responsibilities to your team, the more likely you are to succeed.
The same holds true when communicating with anyone outside your team who might be affected by the project, such as customers, other employees, and senior stakeholders. By sharing progress often and setting realistic expectations, you can stay ahead of any misunderstandings or damaging assumptions.
We’ve likely all participated in a project that suddenly became much more stressful and labor-intensive due to additional unexpected demands. Scope creep often occurs because a project’s goal isn’t well-defined and documented, and the project leader failed to stop stakeholders from adding new, unauthorized requirements. And once it starts, it tends to snowball out of control.
For example, imagine you’re responsible for implementing a new software system for a client. A few weeks into the project, the client asks you to also handle several additional integrations that weren’t part of the initial agreement. You want to make the client happy but didn’t plan resources for these additional integrations, so what can you do?
Instead of merely agreeing and allowing scope creep to take hold, set clear boundaries and develop a workable solution. In this case, you might create a separate agreement to handle the additional integrations after the initial project has ended. Or, if you have the bandwidth now, you might revise the agreement with a new timeline and additional compensation.
Failure to Factor in Inevitable Complex Dependencies
Murphy’s Law was written long before computers existed, but it could have been coined by an IT leader. If something can go wrong with technology, it almost certainly will.
Technology has become a bit more reliable over the past couple of decades, but there are still all sorts of things that can create hurdles and slow-downs. And the larger a project’s scale, the more complicated the fix. The more hardware, software, and networks involved, the more opportunities for something to go amiss.
That’s why you should always consider potential complex dependencies between various components. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll face interoperability challenges and bugs at some stage of the project, so give yourself a buffer. That means padding the timeline, cushioning your budget, and, in some cases, underpromising. It’s better to complete a project ahead of time and under budget than the reverse.
Not Leveraging Automation
IT project management has come a long way. And while there are more demands on IT teams than ever, there are also more tools designed to solve the specific problems you and your team face. If you’re not leveraging automation to help streamline projects and eliminate manual tasks, then what are you waiting for?
For example, Sherpadesk Professional Services Automation combines all the tools necessary to run projects (and your entire business) more smoothly. In addition to our project management solution, which allows you to document and organize support requests, tasks, time logs, expenses, and notes in one location, you’ll also have access to comprehensive reporting, invoicing and billing, and a user-friendly white label helpdesk and ticketing tool.
Having everything in one convenient location helps ensure nothing slips through the cracks, and you can keep all your projects on track and on time.
IT project management is complicated, and you’re bound to make a few minor mistakes along the way. But by avoiding these five big mistakes, you can prevent the sorts of expensive and destructive problems that send projects off course or jeopardize your success.