Top 5 Challenges of Managing Complex Projects by CMK SELECT CMK SELECT CMK SELECT
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Project management challenges exist at all levels of the organization—from the highest strategic level down to the project task level. In today’s business environment, an organization’s ability to recognize and resolve those challenges is a crucial driver in enhancing business performance for greater stability and sustained growth. Here are the top 5 project management challenges
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Top 5 Challenges of Managing Complex Projects

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Project management challenges exist at all levels of the organization—from the highest strategic level down to the project task level. In today’s business environment, an organization’s ability to recognize and resolve those challenges is a crucial driver in enhancing business performance for greater stability and sustained growth.

Here are the top 5 project management challenges that organizations face today:

Challenge 1: Managing Conflicts 

The Problem – A project, by definition, is a one-time activity that generally includes cross-functional or cross-divisional engagements. Conflict is a natural byproduct of any project, given the added stress associated with tight budgets, firm deadlines and conflicting interests of stakeholders. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; some degree of conflict can be energizing and inspire innovation. But there is a threshold that, when crossed, turns constructive conflict into destructive conflict.

The Solution – Consider hosting a series of collaborative workshop sessions to identify the root of the conflict, identify common views, brainstorm ideas and come to agreeable solutions that will move the project forward. Another approach would be to engage an objective third-party, such as a manager or a trusted expert in the field (e.g., an IT expert for tech-related issues), to present additional options.

Challenge 2: Sponsorship Involvement

The Problem – Sponsorship challenges can take on a range of forms—from too little involvement to too much. According to a PMI Pulse of the Profession Report, the top driver of a project’s success in meeting its goals and intent is an actively engaged executive sponsor.1 Project sponsors are there to remove obstacles and support an efficient project flow. An absentee sponsor is likely too distracted to remove those obstacles, while a micro-managing sponsor may end up creating more. Both ends of the spectrum affect project success.

The Solution – Form a steering committee at the onset of the project, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. With input from the steering committee members, create an organizational communication strategy that outlines how communications will be shared across the various levels and stakeholders. Assign a high-level strategic advisor to work with the steering committee to ensure ongoing alignment to the vision and communication strategies and measure ongoing success.

Challenge 3: The Project and Methodology Don’t Fit

The Problem – Different projects require different methodologies. All too often, the methodology being used doesn’t support the project requirements and goals. This might occur if there is no established methodology within the organization, requiring the project team to reinvent the wheel with each project. Or maybe your organization does have a robust methodology in place, but it is too rigid to handle the variety and scope of projects that arise. The wrong methodology can render the project inexecutable.

The Solution – The most effective way to address this common problem is to engage in training that covers project management methodologies (e.g., Agile or Waterfall). If your organization does not already have one, establish a methodology that can be applied to the various types of projects your organization encounters. Next, create an accompanying set of processes and tools, with guidance on how to implement them across a range of projects. Include a decision tree or matrix to ensure the right tools and processes are being used on the right types of projects.

Challenge 4: Priority and Portfolio Management

The Problem – Most organizations have dozens of initiatives that are considered essential to business success. But with limited human capital resources and budgetary constraints, they can’t all be addressed, leaving business leaders in a state of analysis paralysis in determining project priority. Priority challenges can also arise when a new, previously unplanned project emerges that warrants shifting resources that were already allocated to existing projects. Without a structural way of evaluating priority across a portfolio of projects, business leaders struggle to ensure they’re making the right decisions that will maximize their investment.

The Solution – Adopt a project portfolio management discipline that achieves the following objectives:

  • Aligns projects with the overall business strategy
  • Offers a sound governance process to analyze and approve projects
  • Manages the supply vs. demand or capability vs. capacity of the organization
  • Manages portfolio performance across the slate of projects

Challenge 5: Managing Complex Programs with Multiple Moving Parts 

The Problem – Programs that include a slate of projects aimed at achieving the same organizational objective can prove extremely complex to manage. With so many separate but interdependent moving parts, all it takes is a breakdown in one area to negatively impact the whole program. Without a structured, methodical way to organize the endeavors across teams and departments, many organizations fall short of strategically executing the program.

The Solution – Adopt a program management approach that manages interdependencies across the projects at the program level. Here, you’ll be able to achieve economies of scale and scope, find synergies and facilitate efficient project workflows across the program. For example, you can manage resources at the program level, rather than at the project level, while ensuring each project is aligned with the strategy.

With a continued focus on project management excellence and a cohesive approach to resolving challenges as they arise, an organization will be poised for enterprise-wide success. For help resolving your most pressing project management challenges, call us today.

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