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The Top 11 Project Delivery Mistakes to Avoid!

John McVicker
By Failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." – Benjamin Franklin.


Often quoted when we are looking to frame or begin a project in the right way, this quote from Benjamin Franklin should be at the back of every Project Manager's mind as they look to start any project. Yet, all too often, this failure to plan creeps in, and delivery mistakes begin to take our beautifully framed project seriously off course.
Here we look at the top 11 project delivery mistakes – what the mistakes are and how they might be easily avoided. There are a lot more than 11 project delivery mistakes to be avoided! However, we have taken the ones we avoid for our client projects as a means to deliver service excellence.

1. Poor Planning Before Project Commencement

Success or failure of the project can often be determined before the project commences. Ensuring you plan early in the process, even as the customers are formulating the opportunity, can impact the project's success. Deployment schedules, resourcing requirements, configuration changes, and network issues need to be considered. This IS especially true for SD-WAN deployments well before the project kicks off. Planning the project well before service delivery has started has a significant difference in its success.

2. Having the Wrong Person Doing the Wrong Job

Everyone seems to be busy all the time! And with projects, there is often the temptation to have any available resource plugging the gap in the Project Delivery team. This occurs when a more specialist resource might not be able to participate in a given project. Having the wrong person doing the wrong job doesn't help the project be more successful. Often, this "generalist" will not have the skills to navigate unforeseen circumstances. They may hinder the team's progress as they seek to ask questions that are more aligned and specialist resource would have known the answer. Waiting to get the right resource in place will make the project run smoother. Meaning there is often fewer questions, better contingency planning, and successful project delivery.


3. Unrealistic Delivery Timeframes

In the haste to get started and set a date, many project managers assume that services can be delivered faster than possible.
Therefore set an unrealistically short timeframe for the project to be delivered in. Whilst it is good to try to deliver swiftly and even exceed client expectations, it is often better to be cautious. You must set a realistic and achievable timeframe. Meeting the deadline for delivery, albeit a few days or weeks later, provides predictable certainty for the client. Setting a realistic delivery date by consulting all involved making sure they are comfortable with the timing.

4. Poorly Defined Roles and Responsibilities

This aspect of Project Delivery can have a significant adverse effect on delivering to budget and timeframe. At the outset of the project it is essential that all the project team are aware of their specific role, the team, and their responsibilities. All too often, roles and responsibilities within the project are assumed! People assume what role they are playing and what they have to do, rather than being explicitly told. This assumption can lead to confusion, inaction and ultimately affect the overall execution of the project.

5. Failing to Have a Contingency

As the Benjamin Franklin quote indicates, this failure to plan can lead to project failure. Additionally, it is smart to have prepared contingent actions if some situations occur. For example, some hardware may be delayed or unavailable, so there should be a plan for an alternative hardware provider. This is so that the project is not adversely affected. Having planned contingencies for unforeseen circumstances ensures that the project is not derailed.

6. Poor and Inconsistent Communication

True of many aspects of today's commercial life, Project Delivery is also centred on good communication. Often, poorly conceived projects lack consistent communication with team participants meeting on an ad-hoc basis. This unplanned or sporadic communication will lead to a poorly delivered project. To compound matters, communication methods and the content of what is communicated is often imperfect. Imprecise and vague language or the assumption of knowledge pervades conversations. And questions go unanswered. Ensuring a pre-determined meeting cadence and clear communication improves the chance of delivering the project on time and budget.

7. Not Understanding What Success Looks Like

Success comes in shapes and sizes, and the definition of success in one project may not be the same in another project. In short, success varies depending on the project being delivered, the client and the underlying rationale for starting the project. Success may be determined by the speed to deploy or the number of sites where there are no migration issues at all. Knowing and understanding what this success looks like it can impact the way the project is formulated. It also enables the project team to focus on delivering against those success metrics as a primary.

8. No Prioritising, Changing and Re-prioritising

My project delivery professional will tell you that their life is prioritisation, change, re-prioritisation. For many projects, inflexibility to accommodate change, and re-prioritise what is crucial is the source of failure.
Reacting to change and even planning for those contingent events should be at the core of the project team's ethos. Failure to do so will render the project unsuccessful.

9. Not Using a Tool at the Heart of it All.

With the advent of professional software tools to drive the delivery of projects like:
1. Monday.com
2. Basecamp
3. Jira
4. Or Trello
There is no excuse not to have a coherent software management tool at the heart of service delivery.
Coupling service delivery management ethos with a professional tool ensures that the field service organisations can track every detail.
It is essential to note that having multiple tools can deliver the same result as having no tool at all. Often they can create confusion, misalignment and drive slippage of the project. Professionally run service delivery is centred on using intelligent tools that include automation to ensure seamless access to the project.

10. Failure to Focus on the Details

Service delivery success can be defined by focusing on delivering the details. Unsuccessful projects are those that miss small yet essential issues.
This could include:
1. Shipping equipment to the site without a power cable
2. Scheduling a field service agent to the go-to site, when they have the wrong equipment or certifications,
3. Not understanding the configuration to deploy on a given piece of client CPE to need to leave the site.
Failure to focus on the 1%-ers defines run-of-the-mill-service project management from excellent service delivery.
Coupled with that is the need to ensure that this detail pervades the on-site delivery team. That they are empowered to fix or perform minor tasks to deliver the service on time or as planned.

11. Being reactive, not proactive

A good project is delivered on time, on budget and meets stated success criteria. Usually, this is because the project leader is focused on being pro-active at the core of the action.
They reach out to chase item A or check that engineer B will be on-site as planned. Or they check that a deployed site is successfully operational so it can be removed from the project list.
This proactiveness will ensure that the project owner and the project team are continually planning. checking and ensuring that they resolve or uncover any issues that might disrupt the project as early as possible.
One can see that the 11 points above sound simple to address and, yet, they are often not managed successfully. This can hurt the delivery of the service for the client, and. your reputation.
Taking care to plan to avoid these core 11 project delivery mistakes will improve customer success, revenues, and business.