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Identifying a project on the rocks

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As Robert Burns said, “The best laid schemes of mice and men, will often go awry,” and never is this more true than in long-term business projects. Although they may have been well-planned, risk assessed and costed to within the penny there is no guarantee that the project will go without a hitch, on budget and on time.

The smallest slip at the beginning of the project can snowball until it has catastrophic impact later on; so, the key is to catch these slips as they happen.

What could go wrong?

There are many things that can go wrong on a project which may or may not be under the control of the project manager including:

  • Time slippage – Any time a task takes longer than expected or the delivery of equipment is delayed it can slowly accumulate meaning the deadline for the overall project may not be met.
  • Budget changes – The quote given for the project may have been underestimated by the supplier, or as the project progresses the resources required may have risen in price due to reasons outside of the control of the project team (for example Brexit), or problems may occur which have a financial cost to put right.
  • Brief changes – Throughout the life cycle of a project things can change which can result in a change in brief. This could be led by market research, project deliverables not being possible, or  the necessary pivoting of the business.
  • Experience gap – When planning the project, the skills required for completion may have been underestimated, or the project manager may be inexperienced in handling specific challenges which may have arisen.
  • Lack of clear objectives – Although all projects have a brief description if this isn’t clear the project team and the client may have very different ideas of what is going to be delivered and when. This can completely derail a project once this is identified.

Five signs your project is in trouble

Whilst there is a lot that can go wrong with a project, as this is generally the accumulation of lots of little slips, it can be difficult to spot the problems until it is too late. There are, however, some signs that your project may have become derailed.

1. Communication slows – A common sign that there are problems with the project and its progress is if communication between the project deliverer and the client changes. If regular updates suddenly become infrequent, or detailed reports are reduced to answering only questions that are asked there may be problems in the background.

2. Spiralling costs –  It is easy to underquote for a project, and a sign this could be problematic is when every aspect of the project is coming in over budget – even by the smallest amount because over time it all adds up.

3. Team are having to work overtime – If a project is going well and is running to schedule there should be little need for the team to be working overtime, so this can be a sign that the timeline has slipped or there is a bigger problem.

4. Micro-management – The team chosen for the project should be trusted to complete the task so if a member of the management team is micro-managing it could be a sign of a skills gap – either with the team or the project manager.

5. Lack of focus – If the planned schedule has been abandoned and tasks are being carried out out of sync and deliverables are missing targets this is a warning sign that the project is not running according to plan which could have far-reaching consequences.

All of these problems can be minimised through regular and honest communication throughout the entire process, good planning and adaptability to be able to ride the wave of any challenges which do arise. This is something that Brandon Cross prides itself on – honest down to earth communication.

It’s important that all the relevant teams are working from the same brief and have an understanding of what the goals of the project are and how they are to achieve it. Any disconnect with the team can lead to a failed project.

Here at Brandon Cross we are all about solving the challenges that disconnect between people and processes can cause.

If you are about to embark on an information based project – or even if you are half-way through one which has come off the tracks why not speak to us and see how we can help you keep your projects on track, on budget and on time.