Five Major Challenges with Project Management

by Cynthia K. West, Ph.D, Vice President, Project Insight

When it comes to managing projects, there are many challenges faced by project managers, directors of operations, vice presidents of professional services, chief financial offers, and other project team members.

The five most common project management challenges are:

  • Geographically dispersed project teams
  • Using the wrong tool for the job
  • Over booked or mismanaged resources
  • Wasting time looking for project documents or assets
  • Spending too much time in status meetings

1. Geographically-dispersed project teams

Sometimes the entire project team belongs to the same company or organization, yet they often work from different offices either within the U.S. or globally. Even if the project team is in the same office, in today's fast-paced economy, information needs to pass as rapidly as possible, making a centralized project management software solution imperative.

As the rise in outsourcing work and offshore development continues, project managers and executive management need to synchronize their work across multiple time zones. So, when the U.S. based team goes to sleep, and the team in Asia goes to work, they may login to the web-based project management solution to view their project, resource and task status. Companies that manage this asynchronous process well are excelling compared to their competitors.

2. Using the wrong tool for the job

Many companies attempt to manage projects using desktop software applications like Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel. The main challenge with using desktop software to manage projects is that these applications were not designed for collaboration among several parties. At worst, the file is shared by emailing the file to all parties on the team. At best, the file may be posted on a network or on an extranet and shared from there.

One typical scenario that arises from using desktop software for project management is file ‘version control.' For example, a project manager may email a Microsoft Project file to share project information to the team. If the file is updated frequently, then it can often be confusing as to which version of the project is the most recent one. Many times, the project manager will be conversing with an executive about a project and twenty minutes into the conversation find that they are both viewing two different versions of the project.

3. Over-booked and mismanaged resources

Project teams often complain that they do not have accurate or up-to-date information about their resources and what they are working on. Many project teams have more demand for projects than they have team members to execute the projects. Many project teams solve this challenge with a combination of meetings and either Excel or Microsoft Project.

However, project managers utilizing desktop software may have a challenging time understanding how much work each resource has been allocated across all projects. A commonly stated problem is that the projects' timelines are extended beyond an acceptable timeframe, so many project managers abandon using the resource leveling functionality. If resource allocation is an issue, then a decent mid-market or high end solution may be the only options.

4. Wasting time looking for project documents and assets

Project assets can include project scope documents, risk lists, issues lists, files, emails, and deliverables, to name a few. Most project teams are sharing files on networks. The challenge with even the best file storage systems on the internal network is that team members still complain that they cannot find critical documents. It is simply too easy to forget where those assets and files are unless they are frequently used.

Another issue with file storage is that many of the people involved in a project exist outside the network and cannot access these files. Many organizations do not permit third parties to VPN into their network for security reasons. This means that the project manager must resort to emailing those assets to these outside team members, which again can result in the version control problem stated earlier.

5. Spending too much time in status meetings

Many project team members complain about spending too much time in meetings to update project status. No solution is ever going to replace the need for human communication and meetings. However, many teams talk about wasting too much time in meetings where everyone goes around the room and updates the project manager on his/her tasks. This is a very traditional way to getting status updates.

Another common model for updating project status is the project manager asks each team member individually where their tasks stand. The problem with this model is that the project manager becomes a ‘glorified administrator,' and spends time updating the Microsoft Project file or Excel file. Instead, project managers could be managing more projects or thinking about higher level project concerns.

Naturally, there are many more project management challenges than stated here. However, these are the most frequently voiced by teams from a myriad of industries. If you are experiencing one or more of these challenges, then your team may benefit from implementing a project management software system.

A project management solution that is 100% web-based solves these issues by allowing project managers and their team members to access project information from any browser in the world, at any time of the day or night. The project information is centralized in one database and posted in real-time, assuring that all project members and executive management can view the most recent information about the project.

All of the aforementioned challenges above, and some not even noted, can be handled quickly and easily by implementing a web-based project management software. Make these issues a thing of the past and start working smarter toward the future.

Written by: Cynthia K. West, Ph.D

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