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Top 4 Challenges Project Managers Face (& How to Fix Them)


Take a moment to think about all that goes into a project. There is a set scope, budget, schedule and timeline. More companies and project management professionals are continuously looking to cut costs and improve visibility. Risks may evolve into threats. Opportunities can evolve into big savings and better visibility. Or, they can result in major changes to your plans. Even the most stringent of project portfolio management plans are subject to change.

Political upheaval may lead to revocation of permits. Workers may uncover environmental instability during construction and much more. In all likelihood, the need to reduce project costs will increase as the project moves forward. Things change, and issues will occur, threatening complete collapse and failure. But, project managers and team members can navigate these treacherous waters by understanding the top four challenges they face and how to overcome them.

Unclear or Undefined Project Management Goals Inhibit Success

How It Harms Your Project:

Unclear or undefined project goals contribute to miscommunication, poor collaboration, and misalignment of your project team. Since the project management office (PMO) relies on alignment to ensure a project’s timely completion, unclear project results in numerous issues.

For example, miscommunication on priorities may lead to incorrect workflows. Thus, the budget and schedule skew in unanticipated directions. These deviations may result in poor quality of the project’s deliverables, and visibility goes out the proverbial door. And, the final costs rise as more workers must “redo” previous work to meet expectations.

What You Can Do:

The solution lies in setting goals, including reducing costs and improving visibility, at a project’s onset,  as explained in this ebook. Yet, many project office professionals fail to set goals beyond the obvious prior to beginning a project. There is an overall deadline and budget. Not counting status reports, what else can project managers do to keep these goals intact?

They must help all team members meet their responsibilities and stay in alignment with both the obvious and detail-driven goals. If one person does not understand them, it could result in a cascading series of project failures. But, other goals, such as delivering a project without surpassing x tons of waste, have the potential to reduce costs and increase visibility in new ways.

Changes in project scope are another part of the problem. Times will come when goals may change to reflect the company’s needs. Changes should not be beyond reason, but you cannot determine if a change is reasonable without knowing the original goals. Setting goals at the beginning prevents this issue, aligning business strategy with project expectations and strategy as well.

These factors are the foundation of risk intelligence. Risk intelligence is about using data to derive detailed analyses of all risks in a project. Thus, you can create data-based solutions to the possible issues before they materialize, as explained in a previous blog post.

Unexpected Issues Undermine a Project’s Schedule

How It Harms Your Project:

Things come up in when managing a project. Unexpected issues can appear out of nowhere, but indicators may have existed earlier. In addition, they undermine the project schedule, budget, and quality. But, proactive risk management can help.

What You Can Do:

Identity potential risks early on with risk management.

When potential risks are identified early, members of the project team can work to define strategies for overcoming them. Moreover, early identification begets lower costs and increases visibility across a project’s possibilities. Automated notifications in risk intelligence systems can also be leveraged to reduce risk costs by monitoring a risk’s likelihood of fruition.

A Lack of Standardization Increases Risk

How It Harms Your Project:

Speaking of risks, a lack of standardization increases all risks in a project. Standardization enables parties to take specific actions in the event of an issue. This ebook provides an in-depth example of how a single worker’s skills or insufficient training can be identified through standard processes. In the example, the future assignments of the worker lead to quality problems and overall increases in costs. If standard hiring processes existed, the issue may have been prevented in its entirety.

What You Can Do:

Project managers and team members can reduce costs and boost workflows through the creation of standard processes. But, not all processes will function properly at a project’s start. Thus, standard processes must have room to grow and adapt to the changes in a project.

For example, the PMO may gather employee feedback for processes that do and do not work the best.

Get employee feedback to see what type of process works best. Furthermore, standardization requires organization-wide implementation to be effective. In other words, if one person is not held to the same standard, risks may come to fruition.

A Lack of Visibility Throughout Project Lifecycles

How It Harms Your Project:

Another common issue project offices face is a lack of visibility. When the team does not have access to like information, opportunities for miscommunication and misdirection coalesce. This may result in deviation from the project’s budget or schedule. Likewise, compounding issues result in further deviations. Thus, a small problem metastasizes into a major issue that can impede or prevent the project’s completion.

While documentation improves visibility, you need to know how your decisions impact the variables in a project. This is beyond a quick “it’ll go faster” approach. How many minutes are saved? Will the costs change? What are the risks if you do not take this action and their costs?

What You Can Do:

Attaining better visibility into a project can appear difficult, but it can be with the right tools and systems in place. A previous blog post noted more PMOs are turning to Oracle Primavera as a proven means of increasing visibility.

Easy-to-understand metrics, multi-view reports, visualization tools and cloud-based systems within Oracle Primavera give all parties involved a 360° view of a project’s status. Thus, all team members can work toward common goals and share status updates and information without delay. In addition, the system’s cloud-based nature eliminates possible confusion found in terminal-based systems that contain outdated information or lack remote access. Of course, ongoing training is essential to making the most out of these advanced project portfolio management programs.

Meet These Challenges Headfirst Through Proactive, Not Reactive, Action

Knowing how to navigate project portfolio management software systems is not enough to be a successful project manager. But, you can rise to the occasion by learning these success-defining traits and characteristics. Join the conversation by sharing the top challenges you have faced. More than anything else, remember these key points:

  • Set clear, concise goals from the beginning.
  • Plan for the unexpected.
  • Create and follow standard practices to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Use a proven software, such as Oracle Primavera, to increase your project visibility. 

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