Information Technology Project Management: 5 Mistakes to Avoid


Like snowflakes, no two IT projects are the same. Each has many unknowns, and each varies with the complexity of the enterprise’s technology environment. Therefore, project management involving the implementation of changes to business-critical network and unified communications suites must be handled with great care.

When managing one of these unique projects, here are five mistakes to avoid:

1. Failing to communicate effectively with your client and project team

While it may seem like the simplest of the project tasks, it is quite often the hardest. Communication is essential for keeping everyone involved updated on the latest project status, issues, changes, and risks.

The preferred method of communication is typically email, but it can often lack the clarity needed for ensuring project success. Just think: How many times (a day) have you received and read an email that made you even more confused about the topic than before you read it? By nature, email communications lack tone and urgency, which can lead to confusion, misunderstanding, and unmet expectations.

In addition, we all receive hundreds of email messages each day; how do you ensure your communication is going to be read, prioritized, and acted upon by the stakeholders and project team?

Instead, I recommend an old-school trick — make a phone call. A call (even if it is through a voicemail) allows voice inflections and a better, more clear conveyance of the message.

Also, stakeholders and the project team typically handle multiple projects at any given time, along with their normal daily responsibilities — and these things will take priority over your request if you don’t handle it properly. It is best to schedule periodic calls and recurring phone updates during the project kick-off, ensuring the stakeholders and project team will make communication an ongoing priority.

2. Not planning your implementation well

While it is almost impossible to foresee all the project steps and dynamic forces that will impact the implementation team, I recommend planning to the greatest extent possible. By having an agreed-upon project plan — which allocates for risks, budget, cost, and schedule — you set the baseline for future success.

Almost certainly, the project plan will change throughout the IT implementation; however, having the baseline provides the foundation to understand which steps can be moved and the risks and costs involved — allowing stakeholders to make well-informed project decisions.

3. Allowing scope-creep

By the very nature of IT implementation, the project team is going to unearth issues during the discovery phase. To proceed with the project, many of these issues should be solved. However, some of them will be out of scope and will only serve to distract the stakeholders and project team.

Engineers love solving IT problems, and it is only human nature that when you observe an issue that involves a risk to your client’s IT environment, you want to fix it. But instead of immediately jumping on the problem, you should focus on communicating effectively and documenting the newly discovered issue. Then, the project team can share this information with the client and a change order can be implemented if necessary.

4. Failing to manage the moving parts

A good plan lasts about one day after project kick-off. Then, inevitably, things change, discoveries are made, and other priorities start to influence the clients and the project team. It is imperative that the project manager stay engaged and understand the various moving parts that may get in the way of the project’s success. Schedule impacts budget, budget impacts schedule, emerging risks impact them both, and the project manager is in a position of constantly juggling all three.

Learn to juggle.

5. Underestimating the true cost of the project

Estimating the project cost in terms of time and budget is both an art and a science. Start by examining similar projects you’ve completed in the past and review the talents of the implementation team to determine an appropriate estimate of time and budget.

However, how many times has your CIO stated, “We have limited budget and time for this implementation — just get it done”? This is a recipe for disaster. Push back or both you and the CIO are going to be unhappy in the end.

To learn more about controlling unexpected IT costs in your enterprise, download our eBook, “Achieving Cost Predictability in Enterprise IT Operations.” And if you’d like to have a deeper conversation about your next project or the challenges you’re facing, reach out.

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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.