A flawlessly executed project is a bit like a unicorn; in reality, project management mistakes are easy to make and difficult to avoid entirely.
The majority of projects encounter some bumps in the road, and most of the time, this won’t be too disastrous. But when you’re managing client projects in an agency, even small mistakes can end up costing money and causing embarrassment – particularly if they keep happening over and over again.
Nobody is perfect. But it is worth putting in the time to uncover why project management mistakes happen in your agency. That way, you can start building strategies to prevent them.
Why Project Management Mistakes Happen
It’s very easy for things to go wrong in project management. Workflows and dependencies can be highly contingent, hanging in the balance of a wide array of variables. Things might be going swimmingly one day, all for one factor to change the next – potentially endangering the trajectory of the entire project.
To avoid project management mistakes, then, you have to actively manage a host of factors, keep clear communication with stakeholders, anticipate changes, and prepare strategies to mitigate risks.
Needless to say, it’s not always easy to get these things right, even for experienced project managers.
Indeed, the nature of being a project manager means that you’re often handling multiple projects at once, across various teams. The average project manager manages between 2 to 5 projects (though 1 in 4 PMs actually manage more than this…). With so many moving parts competing for your attention, it’s not hard for something to get missed.
Common causes of project management mistakes
Mistakes can easily result from an error in the workflow or a communication failure. When vital information flies under the radar for whatever reason, issues pile up with surprising speed. Scope creep or budget overruns are often the results of missed or miscommunicated information.
Indeed, even a simple lack of candor and clear feedback can compound and lead to the same mistakes being repeated over time.
When your project team drops a ball, it’s often the result of a lack of resource planning and strategy. An under-resourced project team will be overworked, which increases the likelihood of mistakes being made. The more juggling your team is doing, the more likely is it that things will fall between the cracks.
On a similar note, if the team doesn’t have all the right personnel in place, and many critical tasks optimistically depend on one or two key people within the team, you can end up with a bottleneck and subsequent delays.
7 Project Management Mistakes that Agencies Make
Depending on the kinds of projects that your agency tackles, you’ll likely see the same sorts of mistakes cropping up again and again.
The day-to-day specifics may vary, but most of the project management mistakes that digital marketing agencies encounter result from the seven following factors:
1. Lack of clear goals and objectives
If your team starts working without a clear understanding of project goals, it’s likely that they’ll move in the wrong direction. The same is true if the project objectives are defined, but not relayed properly to the rest of the team, or agreed with the client.
As early as the planning stage, clear objectives should be included in the project charter and reinforced within the project duration. Make sure that the project plan also defines the goals and objectives down to the last detail, to manage client expectations.
2. Setting unrealistic deadlines
One of the most common mistakes is creating a condensed project timeline that doesn’t adequately reflect the scope and deliverables. As well as causing stress for your team, this results in incomplete or rushed outputs and a reduction in quality, or overdue projects.
Plan timelines based on previous projects, and allow some contingency for unexpected delays. By monitoring project progress, agencies can keep track of the milestones and pacing of activities, so adjustments can be made with the client if necessary.
3. Misunderstanding the resource requirements
If budget limitations and resource requirements are not understood and handled efficiently, a project is at high risk of encountering major issues – perhaps even failing completely, depending on how poorly resourced the project is.
Simply put: if you don’t have the right people, with the right skills, available at the right time, there’s no chance that the project will progress as you have planned.
Introduce efficient and reliable tools for resource management, to ensure the appropriate use of resources throughout the project lifecycle. Review the resource requirements during the project planning phase, so any conflicts or gaps in skills needed can be identified and addressed.
4. Communication troubles
Miscommunication – both internal and external – is a huge source of mistakes for agencies. When you’re working on a project day-in-day-out, it’s easy to assume that the entire project team is aware of the details, but that’s not always the case.
Conversely, relaying information on every tiny decision or change overwhelms employees. It can impair focus, and even end up burying important messages amongst ones that aren’t relevant.
Project managers are ultimately responsible for each team member and stakeholder’s understanding of the project. Defining which platforms to use for each type of message and data promotes transparency and clarity in communicating ideas. Be sure to document every transfer of information for uniformity and to avoid duplication of work.
5. Not managing scope creep
As you’re collaborating and cooperating with a client over the duration of a project, it’s likely that small changes in the project scope will be requested. In the interest of delivering great client service, your first instinct might be to agree to every change… but these little additions can add up.
Before you know it, you can end up in a situation where you don’t have the budget, resources, or time to achieve the new set of deliverables because of this scope creep.
Avoid scope creep by establishing a change management process early on, and ensure the client and your entire team are aware of how it works. Changes to the project scope should be documented while considering their impact on the rest of the project execution. Ensure any adjustments to the budget or timeline are clear and approved by all stakeholders before the changes are implemented.
6. Inadequate project risk management
One of the critical mistakes agencies make is failing to manage project risks, which requires knowledge of the risks, skills to manage them, and strategies to mitigate them.
A lack of a proper risk process affects a team’s resilience in unexpected situations and can have an impact on the project’s finances and even the agency’s reputation.
Solidify your agency’s risk management process with a risk analysis and response plan. Review them regularly throughout the project, to identify any new risks that have arisen and strategize your response.
7. Not measuring success
Success isn’t a binary: there will be lessons to learn from less successful projects, and areas for praise and development in the more successful ones. But if project managers aren’t checking the metrics and actively gathering feedback, there is no way to measure the success and identify where to improve.
This can be damaging to the team’s morale, leaving them disengaged, as well as making it more likely that they will repeat the same mistakes in future projects.
A project status report is a great way to keep the team updated and keep everyone focused on the same end goal. After team members have completed their tasks and the project has been delivered, the performance of individual contributors and teams should also be evaluated in survey forms, one-on-one feedback, and retrospectives to dissect the project process.
Ready to Consign Project Management Mistakes to the Past?
As you set out to prevent these project management mistakes from happening in your agency, equip yourself with reliable software that can usher you into project success.
The right project resource management tools for your agency can help you allocate resources efficiently, communicate transparently and effectively, and save time by planning, executing, and forecasting everything in one platform.
No matter what size or industry your agency is in, Runn gives you big-picture resource planning power, while intuitively surfacing the details you need to know. See where every dollar is going with real-time reports on resource utilization and billed hours, and scope out your future capacity to take on more work with high-level schedules and scenario planning.
Set yourself and your team up for success. Maximize productivity and efficiency, and wave goodbye to project management mishaps.