Why Are Projects Challenging?

From what we've covered so far, from your own experiences, or from your reading of trade publications, you likely have some appreciation for the difficulty of completing a successful project. While we address many common challenges in more detail throughout this book, let's review the key reasons why projects are challenging to manage:

  • Uncharted territory Each project is unique. The work to be done has never been done before by this group of people in this particular environment.
  • Multiple expectations Each project has multiple stakeholders that each have their own needs and expectations for the project.

    Stakeholder is the term used to describe individuals and organizations who are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be impacted by the execution or completion of the project.

  • Communication obstacles Due to natural organizational boundaries, communication channels, and team development stages, communication of project information must be proactively managed to ensure proper flow.
  • Balancing the competing demands Every project is defined to produce one or more deliverables (scope) within a defined time period (time), under an approved budget (cost) with a specified set of resources. In addition, the deliverables must achieve a certain performance level (quality) and meet the approval of the key stakeholders (expectations). Each of these factors can affect the others, as Figure 1.2 and Figure 1.3 illustrate. For example, if additional functionality (scope, quality) is desired, the time and/or cost (resources needed) of the project will increase. This is a key focus of an effective project manager.

    Figure 1.2. Competing project demands (traditional model). This figure summarizes the relationships between the natural competing demands of projects.


    Figure 1.3. Competing project demands (modern model). This figure summarizes the relationships between the natural competing demands of projects.

  • Cutting Edge Often, projects have a strategic, innovative focus. As a result, they will often deal with new, leading edge technologies. In these cases, the project has more risks, more unknowns, and is much more difficult to estimate accurately.
  • Organizational Impacts In addition to overcoming natural communication obstacles created by the project structure, the project manager must also manage overlaps in organizational approval and authority domains, contend with competing priorities for shared resources, deal with annual budget cycles that may not be aligned with the project's funding needs, and ensure that the project is aligned with the focus of the organization.
  • Collaboration Depending on the strategic level and scope of your project, your project team will consist of stakeholders across the organization from different functional areas that are likely not accustomed to working together. For project success, these different stakeholders must learn to work together and to understand the others' perspectives in order to make the best decisions for the project. Often, the project manager plays a key facilitating role in this collaboration process.
  • Estimating the Work Estimating project work is difficult, yet the time and cost dimensions of the project are built upon these work effort estimates. Given the facts that the work of the project is often unique (never been done before at all, never been done with these tools, and/or never been done by these people), and most organizations do not maintain accurate historical records on previous projects (that may have similar work components), it is difficult to accurately estimate the effort for individual work items, not to mention the entire project. For the entire project, you need to anticipate the quantity and severity of the issues and obstacles that are likely to surface. We'll cover this in more detail in Chapters 7, "Estimating the Work," and 14, "Managing Project Risk."

The competing project demands are often referred to as the triple constraint of project management. Time and Cost (or Resources) are always two sides of the triangle. Depending on where you look, the third side is either Scope, Performance, or Quality. In either case, it's the "output" of the project. Additionally, many recent variations of this model have included the additional demand of Client Expectations.

Part i. Project Management Jumpstart

Project Management Overview

The Project Manager

Essential Elements for any Successful Project

Part ii. Project Planning

Defining a Project

Planning a Project

Developing the Work Breakdown Structure

Estimating the Work

Developing the Project Schedule

Determining the Project Budget

Part iii. Project Control

Controlling a Project

Managing Project Changes

Managing Project Deliverables

Managing Project Issues

Managing Project Risks

Managing Project Quality

Part iv. Project Execution

Leading a Project

Managing Project Communications

Managing Expectations

Keys to Better Project Team Performance

Managing Differences

Managing Vendors

Ending a Project

Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
ISBN: 078973821X
Year: 2006
Pages: 169

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