My list of project risks

There are at least a hundred reasons projects fail.  Expect anything from vague requirements to budget shortages to waning passions to unreasonable project schedules.  All novice mistakes…  But we can’t all be experts on every topic.  About the best we can do is identify the most common areas for failure, and discuss these with the team.  At least the team will be aware.

Here’s a quick starter list.  You’ll probably have to make it a little more diplomatic before presenting it to your group.  “:)

1. Newbies don’t know how long things actually take.
2. Unfamiliar technologies need extra research time.
3. Virtual development teams don’t communicate the same as in-house.
4. Team members without a passion for the product won’t perform.
5. Vaguely defined projects either go on forever or burn up in debate.
6. Projects without top-level commitment get lost in the minutia.
7. If the company doesn’t need it bad enough, it will fail.
8. Pick only two: Cost, Quality, or Time.  Let the third fall where it may.


Scrum Burn-down Charts

In the world of project management there are often disputes over Waterfall vs. Agile methodology.  Most people have a bent or preference and there is plenty of discussion whether Agile can fit within any typical Waterfall project.  However there isn’t much disagreement among Agile proponents on the need for a good SCRUM chart.  Check out the link below from a recent blog posted on by Bill Krebs.  Bill has an interesting take on Tracking Burn-down Progress…

Utilization Reports

In a Professional Services company, how do you know if you are billing enough hours to be profitable?  One way is to check to see if you’re still in business.  If so, you’re billing enough hours!

Okay, that works.  But wouldn’t it be nice to tune your billable hours for maximum efficiency?  That’s what a utilization report does for you.  It checks the number of hours for billable vs. non-billable.  the image below is a snapshot of one employee’s rates.  Not bad, huh?

Utilization Report

There’s an unofficial law at our company: Either find a way to bill 50 hours a week, or look for a job elsewhere.

That’s the hard reality at some companies.  You can bet management is watching the utilization reports.  Of course, if they don’t they’ll probably go out of business themselves.


Time estimates are tricky

If you are an inexperienced project manager, engineer, or designer, consider tripling your initial time estimates for projects.  That’s not a slam.  It’s just that new managers don’t take a lot of minutia into consideration when developing project time estimates.  Experienced people have been through a lot of project cycles.  They have seen a lot, and the know the hundreds of little things that can bog a project down or extend it long beyond all normal estimates.  So if you’re new, triple the schedule until you know the details.