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No one ever expects a project to go perfectly. Even the most expertly-managed project is certain to encounter at least a bit of difficulty along the way, whether it comes in the form of an unanticipated change in requirements, the departure of an important team member or any of a dozen other potential issues. Depending on how the project manager handles these challenges, a project can either continue to stay on track or head into serious trouble.

In a worst-case scenario, unexpected difficulties can cause a project to fail outright, with devastating consequences for the project manager and other stakeholders. In other cases, the danger is not so much that the project will fail completely, but that it will become derailed, losing sight of its initial objectives and producing a result that provides little benefit for anyone involved. Here are some of the most common causes of project derailments, and the ways successful project managers avoid them.

Scope Creep

Nothing runs a project off the rails faster than scope creep—the ongoing expansion or redefinition of a project’s objectives. Avoiding scope creep is one of the most important aspects of project management, and the single best way to prevent a project derailment.

A project’s scope needs to be thoroughly documented at the beginning, and any changes to the scope need to be captured properly through a change order process. Otherwise, the project will continuously pick up new requirements and new deliverables. Eventually, these additions will do more than simply expand the project—they’ll turn it in the wrong direction and even add to the budget.

Outdated Software

Inadequate project planning software can create conditions that make a project derailment much more likely. Older on-premise project management software typically lacks the collaboration tools and real-time interactivity that are necessary in order for an entire project team to stay informed about a project’s status and priorities. Cloud-based project management solutions like Clarizen allow project teams to work as a cohesive unit, even when they are spread across multiple business units, time zones or continents.

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Mismatched Resources

Enterprise-level projects typically engage dozens or even hundreds of people, including customer project teams, vendor project teams and often third-party consultants or PMs as well. With so many people involved, it’s very common to find that certain team members have been put on a project that doesn’t match their skills and experience. Identifying misaligned resources and finding proper replacements can be time-consuming and frustrating for everyone involved.

The solution? Better resource planning. When companies have clear visibility into their employees’ current workloads and skill sets, they are much more able to assign employees to the right projects and keep them in place for the duration of the project. Clarizen offers sophisticated project and portfolio management tools that help project managers and executive leaders balance team workloads and align the right resources with each project. Take a product tour today to learn more.

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Buyer’s guide to project management software