To complete a project on time and within budget, it’s vital to successfully navigate project management challenges. These challenges are further amplified in the current hybrid work environment where collaboration and monitoring are more virtual than ever. Sure, a few challenges arrive at our doorstep unannounced. Sometimes, our current project management capacity is inadequate to handle problems that are new in magnitude and complexity.
Managers can overcome both anticipated and rarely encountered challenges with proper foresight and planning. In this blog, we discuss the most critical project management challenges and how to solve them.
1. Managing a Hybrid Workforce
Remote work is now mainstream. Indeed, many companies offer remote work to attract and retain the best talent. According to a study conducted by Growmotely, 97% of employees preferred to work remotely or in a hybrid environment. Managers too must adapt and work around this reality, instead of swimming against the tide.
Notwithstanding the benefits, remote work presents project management challenges like information asymmetry and uneven project visibility. These challenges, far from being an argument in favor of returning to office, only call for a more intelligent solution.
Managers can level the playing field with better planning and proactive communication. Hence, it’s necessary to plan business and informal meetings in advance because there’s less scope for team socialization and ad hoc meetings.
2. Time Zone Differences
Time zone differences exacerbate the problems faced by remote teams. Requiring employees to extend their work hours to accommodate time zone differences can impact team satisfaction.
By adept planning, the work can be divided to minimize the need for collaboration between teams from unfriendly time-zones. Further, the managers need to communicate the needs and expectations more frequently. Finally, the work required of each team member must be spelled out in detail, if the manager is in a different time-zone and not always available.
3. Managing Team Availability
Managing the team’s availability, especially when working on multiple projects, is fraught with challenges. Seeking information about the team and individual workload in an ad hoc manner is an unnecessary expenditure of time and effort.
By using digital tools like calendars and timesheets, managers can get real-time visibility of the team’s workload and plan accordingly.
Besides the work, managers must regularly plan for team events outside of business context. These meetings foster peer play and socialization and bring the team closer. Therefore, infusing the human element in the team structure has the potential to reduce possible friction between team members.
4. Inadequate Communication
According to a Deloitte report, communication is the biggest challenge in project management by 32% of professionals. Managers must communicate with a wide range of stakeholders with varying interests in the project. It has often been observed that despite voluminous correspondence, the other party fails to grasp the on-ground implications of the communication. These kinds of communication gaps can cause the project to come to a standstill in extreme cases.
Managers must present each stakeholder with the relevant project information in a way that anticipates and addresses their concerns. To this end, managers must develop a comprehensive communication plan and share it with the concerned parties well in advance, be it employees, clients, vendors, or other teams.
By designing templates tailored to each stakeholder’s perspective, they can significantly reduce the to and fro in communications. Consequently, these custom-designed templates give stakeholders the insight they need to make informed decisions in their areas of interest.
5. Unclear Goals
According to a study, inadequate project planning and ambiguous goals cause 39% of projects to fail. With the business landscape always in flux, marking the contours of a project can be daunting.
The solution lies in setting up clearly-defined milestones that quantify project progress. Managers can leverage approaches like SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) and CLEAR (Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, Refinable) to fine-tune their tracking efforts. In other words, by measuring the progress in terms of objectively verifiable milestones, managers can project confidence to the leadership team and customers.
6. Unrealistic Deadlines
Pressure from customers and management can lead to unrealistic promises. Improper estimation techniques, when coupled with optimism bias, can color one’s judgment regarding the project delivery timelines.
Managers need to build in extra time and resources in the project calculations to give respite in unforeseen circumstances. In addition, reviewing the documentation of similar projects can help anticipate a few common problems. Above all, a layer of padding around the timelines is necessary to soften the blow by unpredictable disruptions.
7. Cost Overruns
Managers are often tasked with completing projects with inadequate budgets. Unfortunately, budget constraints spill over to limiting the resources available too. According to a report by State of Project Management in Manufacturing, about 50% of manufacturing managers, according to a study, point to costs as their biggest project management challenge.
With realistic assessment integrated into the project scheduling and budgeting tools, it’s possible to drive project progress within the budgetary constraints. In addition, by keeping a tab on the spend, managers can ensure project continuity despite a few disruptions.
Cost overruns also spring from employing select resources beyond the planned engagement. In such an event, managers need to strictly execute a management structure that caps the resource use for a particular project.
8. Scope Creep
Scope creep occurs when new features and functionalities are added to the project without considering how it impacts the time, cost and resources. According to PMI, it causes a significant delay or budget overrun in 50% of all projects. It’s primarily caused by poorly defined project scope, incongruent standardization practices, and communication gaps between the various project stakeholders. Sometimes, it results from inadequate resource planning and task prioritization.
Many of the above issues can be preempted by preparing a scope management plan at the very start. Inviting all stakeholders to participate in the scope discussions helps nip potential problems in the bud. Periodic reassessment of project progress against the scope baseline helps managers better visualize the extent of scope creep. Finally, it helps to keep a communication plan handy to relay the scope creep to the customers.
9. Managing Team Competency
Despite an ideal environment, a project can slip through the cracks if the team doesn’t possess the skills necessary for the road ahead. In a fast-evolving technology landscape, the skills required for a project can frequently change too. But a manager armed with good experience and foresight can rein in the project from the beginning.
Managers can identify the skills the project needs and map them with the best-fit resources. They can anticipate the likely bottlenecks at a particular project stage, and equip the team with the skills, competencies and additional resources well in advance. In parallel, they can arrange for continuous upskilling and reskilling workshops by which their team is conversant with the trending technologies too.
Further, agile projects require each team member to actively seek responsibilities instead of expecting to be assigned the tasks. This involves a fundamental change in the team and individual mindset. Managers need to help their teams to adopt the habits required to implement an agile framework. Managers can overcome resistance and inertia to change, through proper motivation and training.
10. Diffused Decision-making
Many employees find it difficult to access the right information at the right time. According to a study, they expend about 20% of their work week in search of information or find colleagues who can help them. Given that there are occasions that necessitate speedy decision making, it’s vital to always have information handy at a moment’s notice.
With an elegant mix of technology and conversational UI, companies can build a cloud-based centralized repository. By doing this, they overcome two obstacles. The information resides at a common hub (and not on any individual’s system) and those with authorized access can leverage it any time, anywhere. Second, by creating a list of FAQs with a conversation UI, they can preempt the choking of their Internal Helpdesk service lines. The helpdesk can, in turn, focus on other value added services.
11. Risk Management
The project progress can be derailed by any unforeseen circumstances and out-of-control variables. Part of a good plan is to plan for it not panning out as planned. It’s futile to press the panic button when the project has started going haywire. Such knee-jerk reactions can further exacerbate the already downward spiral.
By identifying potential “what if’ scenarios and creating contingency plans, managers can confidently address project-critical issues. A good project risk management plan scans the full breadth of operations from a threat perspective and develops Plan B (or C).
Since most risks ultimately endanger budget, time or workforce, the plan must be resilient enough to withstand their onslaught. By developing predetermined responses to these unsettling events, the managers can buy enough time to sail past the emergency and implement a better, long term solution.
12. Lack of Accountability
As remote work gained prominence, there have been concerns about handling accountability issues. As a result, some think that managers must go to extreme lengths to ensure the team complies with the agreed timelines. However, such micromanaging can cause friction amongst the team and can prove counterproductive.
A better way is to make accountability a collective responsibility. Managers can hold a kickoff meeting where team members are encouraged to volunteer their role based on their expertise. Since the responsibility was not thrust on them, the members will take the ownership of the tasks better.
By defining how the team members will hold each other accountable many potential conflicts can be handled in a sensitive way. In addition, underlining the interconnectedness of tasks in a detailed fashion can help members appreciate how a delay in a project deliverable can eventually cascade into a full-blown crisis.
Making each member have a vested interest in project progress can ensure better compliance to project timelines (instead of a top-down approach).
New-age Technologies to Better Handle Project Management Challenges
To move in tandem with growing complexity of project management, employees need to be empowered with new-age technologies.
Many project managers are already leveraging AI-based virtual assistants to help them streamline and manage their wide spectrum of work.
AI-based virtual personal assistants are increasingly being utilized to help project managers streamline and manage their wide spectrum of work. These AI assistants help managers schedule meetings based on team availability and book a meeting room. In addition, these assistants can perform many repetitive tasks, thus freeing up managers’ time.
By leveraging analytics on their work schedule, managers are able to identify the time spent on high-impact and ritualistic tasks. They can strive to achieve a better work life balance by focusing on tasks that provide the highest value.
Resolve Your Project Management Challenges with an Intelligent Solution
You need an intelligent project management solution to manage your project end-to-end in a frictionless way. The solution must be designed keeping in the mind the project management challenges cited above. In addition, the solution must automate manual tasks to the extent possible and facilitate a seamless user experience.
Above all, the solution must be easy to use and integration-friendly with your systems. It must provide for role-based real-time visibility and monitoring. A solution with these features leads to accurate cost and effort estimates, increased project profitability, and client satisfaction.