So far in this five part series on potential project killers, we've covered two topics:

  • Starting too fast – getting the project going before it’s really ready to start and before it had been well defined by the customer and well planned out by the project manager and team.
  • The vague project budget– moving forward on the project with no definite budget in place or a very vague one. Without the financial target in place at the beginning of the project, the scope may change and the financial affects will be hard to pinpoint or justify, and without any budget you can never have the project be deemed a financial success…meaning it will always be in question.

In this third installment, we’ll discuss the problem of the indecisive project customer. A customer who comes into the project without a clear focus of the requirements of needs of the project will be presenting the project manager and team with an ever-moving target. Let’s examine this in further detail…

The indecisive project customer

An indecisive customer is as bad as an ill-prepared customer. This type of customer may be very difficult - if not impossible – to satisfy. Worse, they may never be satisfied with whatever you provide them with and the sign-off criteria for the project may be so poorly defined that you have trouble ever getting closure on the project deployment.

If you’re running a phased project and they keep moving implementation phases around, that can affect many things on your project over the course of the engagement. It can affect your resource assignments and allocation – thus greatly affecting your project budget and probably the project timeline as well. It can throw off your entire resource planning process.

Also, project scope can be a major issue. If you have an indecisive project customer is frequently changing their mind on requirements, tasks, deliverables and milestones, the overall affect to your project schedule can be monumental. Each change can bring about new risks, and changes in scope will cause a need for new change orders. We all know that projects requiring frequent and numerous change orders that the customer must pay for do not usually result in satisfied customers – even if they are the primary cause for the change orders.

Summary

The key is to manage the customer well and keep their expectations…and their changes in check if at all possible. Set expectations at the beginning of the project during formal project kickoff. And if it seems like the customer is not onboard or there are too many questions left unanswered at this point, then don’t start the project yet. A slight delay is far better than starting with a customer who isn’t yet committed to a definite project path and goal. It’s ok to start a project a little later, but starting too early can lead to disaster when you’re working off too many assumptions, too few facts, and trying to hit a moving target.

In Part 4 of this five part series, we’ll examine the next potential project killer – the ever-changing project resource roster.

Choosing the right project management software is crucial for the success of your project.Telerik TeamPulse allows you to expressively define and effectively manage requirements. The product enables you to easily capture ‘user stories’ (high-level informal statements of requirements), associate them to personas (end-user profiles), create relationships between stories and much more.


Brad Egeland
About the Author

Brad Egeland

A Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.

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