When an IT project fails, all fingers point to the project manager. Whether the blame can be assigned to this person directly in all cases is debatable, but one thing is certain: the project manager could and should have prevented the failure.

Why Do IT Projects Fail?

The whole purpose in being a project manager is to oversee, give directions, stop errors from propagating and ensure proper communication between the customer and the team of developers. In most of the cases, failures occur when:

  • Communication is ineffective
  • The scope of the project is misinterpreted
  • The terms, conditions, and budget set for the project are unrealistic

In most of the cases, one of these situation leads to the occurrence of the others. And it should have been the project manager’s duty to step in and stop the chain of events.

Between Placing the Blame and Stopping the Vicious Cycle

Senior management is usually left in the position of picking up after a failure, issuing the apologies and, overall, looking bad in the client's eyes. Blame placing is the easiest way out – but not the most effective and professional.

What really matters is to understand how and why these mistakes occur and find ways to prevent them from occurring in future projects. Therefore, this list of top IT project management mistakes should be used as reference by all project managers working on web or mobile development projects:

1. Not Bringing Everyone Together to Discuss Scope and Goals

Multi-directional discussions often take place instead of a general meeting where the client’s team and the development team discuss the project directly. Instead, the senior management and the project manager talk to the client, and then the project manager talks to the team. Even if the project manager can repeat the client’s brief verbatim, misunderstandings will still occur.

If the project starts out with the team developing one thing, while the client expects something different, things are bound to go downhill to a complete failure.

2. Allowing Scope Creeps

A scope creep happens when, little by little, by small changes and deviations from the original project plan, the scope of the project changes. This happens when the client requests changes which are not sent through the official channel (the project manager) or when the IT team concludes that a certain feature or technology is preferable to what was agreed – again without the project manager being informed.

The scope creeps are among the top reasons projects fail. They lead to skipping over agreed milestones, exceeding the budget, failing to deliver on time or delivering something different from the scope of the brief. This can be easily prevented if the project manager has a strong position and acts on their prerogatives as project owner.

3. Failing to Manage Expectations

For many people unfamiliar with the field, the IT team consists of magicians who can achieve anything with a few keystrokes and a click. When the initial discussion with the client takes place, a savvy project manager will easily identify such behavior, expressed in unrealistic technical demands or deadlines to be achieved.

It is important to step in and present exactly what can be achieved, according to the scope and the budget. Without these explanations, the client’s expectations will only soar higher (human imagination has no boundaries) and the end result will cause them to claim that this is not what they paid for.

4. Not Breaking Down Large Projects Into Manageable Portions

Orchestrating the development of a large project, in terms of duration, product features, and number of team members involved needs a step-by-step approach. The project needs to be carefully dismantled into its key components, and each of them assigned a deadline, a number of specialists and its own milestones and checklist of activities.

Going forward without such a breakdown will leave the team confused, overwhelmed, and conflicted about priorities. This is a perfect recipe for failing to deliver a project on time or even keeping up with the agreed WIP terms.

5. Keeping Project Problems to Oneself

A project manager is the first person in position to receive bad news from the developers’ team or to notice that the project is off schedule. This information needs to be shared with senior management as soon as possible.

Some project managers, however, believe that it’s better to keep quiet, at least for a few days, and try to solve the problem on their own, despite the evidence proving the contrary. The inability to admit and own up to a problem will only escalate to the point where the project never gets completed at all. Transparency in reporting any significant development negatively affecting the project is the key to its successful completion.