Project Management

9 Project Management Challenges and How to Overcome Them Effectively [UPDATED]

Nov 26, 2021
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Whether you’ve been a project manager for 15 years or 15 minutes, you likely know that being a project manager is one of the most crucial—and difficult—business functions. From dealing with ongoing project constraints, such as time, budget, quality, scope as well as constant pressure from project team members and stakeholders, project managers have their work cut out for them.

However, there are ways to make project management easier and the enjoyable and fulfilling role that it can be. And it begins with first recognizing the challenges so that you can conduct measures to overcome them. In this article, we have rounded up the top 9 challenges that project managers face and some tips on how to deal with them.

What Are the Challenges of Project Management?

According to data published in the 2020 Pulse of the Profession® Report published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), 11.4 percent of business investment is wasted due to poor project performance.

What factors play a role in poor project performance? Some factors include lack of detailed planning, lack of consistent processes and methodologies, improperly managing or accounting for all project stakeholders, budget overruns, and many others.

However, if we break it down a step further, the reasons for project failure fall into these three primary categories:

  1. People
  2. Processes
  3. Communication

Let’s dive into the biggest project management challenges, and some tips on how to overcome them.

Top 9 Challenges of Project Management

1. Communication

The Problem

As a project manager, how many times have you had to address project-related issues caused by “misunderstandings”, “misinterpretations”, or “miscommunications?”

Poor or ineffective communication is one of the biggest risks to any project. If project managers are unable to properly delegate tasks, provide or translate instructions, communicate key project milestones and objectives, or clarify roles, responsibilities, and “who is doing what”, then this will cause a giant cloud of confusion among all stakeholders.

The Solution

Communication issues can be controlled with a communication plan. This communication plan essentially provides project teams with a governance system and outlines which communication methods, such as email, meetings, phone calls, memos, and so on will be used to communicate specific areas or milestones during the project life cycle.

For example, if a project manager needs to issue a change management notice to the entire project team due to a change in scope, he or she can refer to the communication plan on how to best circulate that type of communication.

Additionally, project managers can also adopt and implement project management software to help keep project team members and stakeholders up-to-date on project updates, increase transparency, and also provide a centralized location for all correspondence, discussions, and feedback related to project tasks and milestones.

2. Lack of Clear Project Goals and Alignment With Business Objectives

The Problem

Another common project management challenge is the lack of clear project goals and misalignment between goals and core business objectives. This issue often arises due to poor planning. This isn’t necessarily the fault of a project manager. In many cases, companies fail to put sufficient time and effort into not only properly planning projects but ensuring those projects are aligned with a business strategy or roadmap.

The Solution

The project management role can vary depending on the size and type of organization. Some medium-sized businesses and enterprises involve project managers in the “pre-work” project planning phase.

In many cases, project managers develop a business case, which essentially studies and communicates the business value and financial benefits of executing a particular project. It is also tied to the business’s overall roadmap and strategy. The business case document is often reviewed by organizational leaders and executives to determine whether or not to move forward with the project.

The project business case sets the stage for the project, ensuring leadership and project team members are all aligned on the purpose of the project, the projected value it will provide, core objectives, and then clear project goals.

3. Lack of Accountability

The Problem

Accountability is one of the first rules of execution. Every member of a project management team has an integral role to play in the successful outcome of a project. Therefore, it’s important that the project manager ensures a level of accountability for each project team member. Believe it or not, any lack of accountability can cause a ripple effect, affecting every phase of the workflow.

The Solution

During the project kick-off, project managers must communicate with all roles and responsibilities for all project stakeholders and project team members, and how each one is expected to communicate progress. It’s also important to communicate how the completion of one task is dependent on the completion of another.

Remember that a project team is comprised of different types of people, each with their own skill sets, specialties, work habits, and personalities. Collaborating on a project requires every member to do his or her part and communicate effectively.

4. Unrealistic Deadlines and Planning Fallacies

The Problem

One of the biggest mistakes that project managers make is setting unrealistic deadlines. This could be due to several factors:

  • Improper estimation techniques
  • Lack of estimation
  • Optimism bias
  • Pressure from leadership to “make the project go faster”

The Solution

It’s important for project managers to get input from team members and stakeholders on how long it will take to complete a specific task, or how long it will take to review and approve a particular deliverable. This can be incredibly time-consuming, however, your effort will pay off when there is a realistic timeline for the entire team to follow.

Many project managers who are also optimists often fall victim to optimism bias when estimating or calculating how long project tasks will task, resulting in planning fallacies. This is closely tied with risk planning and management, however, it’s important to account for any risks that can slow down a project timeline. The best way to do this is to build a layer of “padding” into a timeline to account for any delays or environmental risks.

Using a project management tool that not only allows project managers to closely monitor and control the project schedule and timeline but that also allows project team members, stakeholders, and executives visibility into the timeline will keep everyone on the same page and help to avoid any surprises.

5. Resource Allocation

The Problem

Proper resource allocation continues to be a major challenge in the world of project management. Because many organizations struggle with budgeting or acquiring sufficient resources, many project managers are forced to make do with the resources that are available. Unfortunately, this means assigning tasks to project team members, contractors, agencies, or vendors who may not necessarily have the right skills to perform or carry out a particular task or ensure quality output.

The Solution

Every task should be aligned with a professional’s role or skill set. End of story. Before the project culminates, project managers must create a detailed list of all the deliverables, the skills needed to accomplish them, and evaluate all existing resources to determine if there is a skills gap anywhere.

If a project manager determines there is in fact a skills gap, which introduces a risk to completing a successful project outcome, then he or she can perform an analysis, similar to a “make or buy” analysis to determine if the organization should hire an internal resource or an outside agency or firm.

6. Inadequate Project Budget

The Problem

Today’s businesses are often challenged with having to do more with less. This challenge trickles down to project managers. Budget and resource constraints are overwhelming. Many executives or stakeholders push project managers to often do the impossible: execute a perfectly-planned project quickly with little resources and budget.

The Solution

Budget constraints mean the project manager will have to make decisions related to specific trade-offs, such as limiting the use of particular resources and implementing a strict cost management structure to prevent delays and consequently, bigger costs.

7. Scope Creep

The Problem

Scope creep — the nightmare of every project manager. It can be frustrating to work with stakeholders who don’t know what they want and who do not have a clear goal in mind. This can introduce huge risks, ultimately impacting all aspects of the project.

The Solution

When the project is underway, it’s frustrating and difficult to adjust certain aspects to meet a stakeholder’s new demands, requirements, or instructions that weren’t part of the planning phase.

To minimize scope creep, project managers can do the following:

  • Work with stakeholders to collect information, gather requirements, draft specifications, clearly identify goals, and so on
  • Institute a change management process
  • Communicate how last-minute changes, additions, or exclusions will impact project constraints
  • Develop a detailed scope management plan on how to control and avoid scope creep, and remind stakeholders periodically of the plan, especially when new changes are suggested

However, project teams who work in more agile than predictive project environments must be ready to pivot based on feedback collected after each sprint or iteration.

8. Insufficient Risk Management

The Problem

Even the best and most experienced project managers can’t predict every single risk that can potentially impact a project. Project risks can range from a project management system bug that introduces an error in a project timeline to an earthquake. Even with the most detailed project plan, there are bound to be some unforeseen events that will endanger the project.

The Solution

Risk management strategies are where it’s at. A project manager must be diligent in developing a risk management plan, which includes:

  • Identifying any and all potential risks
  • Categorizing those risks
  • Calculating the ratio of likelihood those risks will occur
  • Creating measures on how to address or respond to risks if/when they occur

Monitor risks by instituting a risk register or log

9. Adopting the Right Project Management Software

The Problem

There are a number of project management systems available today. Although this isn’t necessarily a “problem”, per se, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every tool will solve all of a project manager’s challenges. As mentioned above, the role of a project manager varies between organizations. Factors such as organization, industry, project type, and even team culture all impact the level and depth of project management.

In many cases, project managers select a project management tool with all the “bells and whistles”. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best fit. Many project management systems provide a number of features and functionality, but this can often overcomplicate projects and projects rather than help.

The Solution

Adopting the right project management tool isn’t an easy choice, nor should it be. It’s important to consider the available options while also thinking through what project teams really need.

The best way to approach this is to list out the top priority features the project manager and project team need to help them monitor task assignments, budgets, schedules, and so on. Then, weigh the advantages of a particular tool against budget, and make a decision.

What Are the Future Challenges for Project Managers?

As the business world continues to evolve, so do project management principles, practices, and challenges. Here are some of the future project management challenges expected:

  • Resource Availability and Allocation - As mentioned earlier in this article, project managers are expected to do the impossible: do more with less. Not only does this relate to project constraints, but also resource allocation. With large talent gaps spanning across various industries, resource availability will continue to be a challenge for the near future.
  • Demand for Agility - “Going agile” has become a huge trend. Known for its advantages of increasing productivity, decreasing time-to-market, and putting customer needs and wants at the forefront, many organizations push teams to become agile. This puts a lot of pressure on project managers.

    However, “going agile” isn’t something organizations just do, it requires a significant change in how an organization thinks and operates. Organizations must reach a certain level of maturity for a successful deployment of agile project management.

Digital Transformation - As more and more organizations jump on the digital transformation train, adopting the right tools, systems, and processes becomes even more important. This challenge goes back to adopting the right project management system that not only allows teams to build, adjust, and optimize their existing processes but also allows them to grow and scale.

All in all, project management is in high demand, and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In fact, project management is expected to grow by 33 percent through 2027. In order to keep up with the ever-evolving business landscape, project managers need to stay informed on proper project management practices and trends.

How Do You Overcome Project Management Challenges?

Project management challenges are unavoidable, however, in addition to staying up-to-date on the latest project management tactics, techniques, and best practices, project managers can also do the following:

  • Assess Resource Availability and Workload: Although project managers can’t influence the job market or directly impact talent gaps, they can put more effort into assessing, monitoring, and calculating resource availability and capacity. Another solution is to extend the project planning phase to allow more time for proper resourcing, recruiting, and onboarding.
  • Perform an Agile Readiness Assessment: How do project managers know if their organizations are mature enough to go agile? The best way to do this is to perform an agile “readiness” assessment, which involves assessing existing processes, resources, and skills, and identifying any gaps. This assessment can easily become a project itself and can involve calculating the time, resources, budget, and effort required for proper agile implementation.
  • Choose the Right Project Management Software: As mentioned above, the best way to ensure organizations and their project managers choose the right project management software is to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a particular tool against budget, and make a decision.

Why Rindle is the Solution for  Resolving the Biggest Project Management Challenges

Rindle can help resolve many of the common project management challenges. Rindle can help simplify team correspondence and communication, increase accountability, and streamline processes and workflow management. And with Rindle’s simplistic user interface and no-code platform, virtually anyone can set up and begin using Rindle in a matter of hours rather than weeks or months.

Visit Rindle for a free trial in removing project management challenges for your agency.