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Project Pitfalls 
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COST SAVING TIPS: Project Pitfalls

The following 28 telltale points can help a company identify potential problem projects BEFORE a project starts and DURING a project. These generic points are non-technical and apply to most projects, whether they be a systems study, a hardware/software evaluation and selection project or a software development and implementation project. These tips are equally applicable to most methodologies, whether they be a phased waterfall or an iterative variation of the Rational Unified Process (RUP).  Use these 28 points as a checklist, and see if any apply to you.  Remember that these are Nori & Associates guidelines, and do not by each and of themselves identify a critical error.  These guidelines, experience and proprietary material, are used by Mr. Rino Nori and his senior associates during assessment reviews. 



1. Lack of detailed project workplans, estimates, barcharts and project organization chart.

2. Project management is not shared with the senior management of the user area benefiting from the project.

3. No clear and specific definition of the scope and objectives of the project, of the resulting project deliverables, nor of the senior user management personnel tasked with acceptance of the project deliverable.

4. Total project time frame exceeds 18 elapsed months, sub-project time frames are not in the three to nine month timeframe.

5. No planned interim deliverables, within the first six months of the project and every two to three months after that.

6. Planned concurrent conversion to multiple new systems and/or attempting to implement major systems within a short time frame.

7. No scheduled third party Quality Assurance project reviews.  QA reviews are best conducted by completely objective and independent senior experienced personnel.

8. Project team is not full time available. It is comprised of many part time personnel and/or personnel "to be announced".

9. Project team organization is a multi-tiered structure resulting in many managers/advisors and few "workers".

10. Project team personnel are dispersed across multiple locations, and/or personnel lack a common methodology and approach.

11. Project personnel lack the necessary technical, functional and project management expertise and experience.

12. Completion deadlines presuppose planned overtime.

13. Project staffing is based upon full productivity and continuous availability of personnel (no vacation/holiday allowances).

14. Project sub-teams are comprised of fewer than two full time personnel or more than seven full time personnel (i.e. there is a risk of dependency upon too small a number of personnel or a risk of lack of ownership and team spirit as each person feels they are just a cog).



1. Lack of weekly/bi-weekly project time keeping (time sheets, web based time recording, other) recording actual effort against project tasks and estimates to complete.  Project team manager does not assess earned work on a weekly/bi-weekly basis nor update the detailed work plan as needed.

2. Lack of monthly progress reporting and monthly project progress meetings with user management personnel.

3. Monthly progress reports contain subjective descriptions and omit quantifiable references of progress against the original workday estimates and elapsed time barchart.

4. The monthly progress report forecast of estimate to complete reflects an increasing negative variance for two successive months, or the monthly forecasts do not change on a monthly basis and consistently show the original estimate as the forecast total completion effort.

5. Forecast project completion date is significantly postponed two or more times.

6. Prior to the midpoint of the project, the revised workday estimate exceeds the original estimate by 10%.

7. Total administration, meetings and management time as a percentage of total work effort exceeds 15%.

8. Significant project team turnover, and/or project team overtime, especially in the early stages of the project.

9. User involvement in the functional design stages of the project is below 30%.

10. The first interim deliverable is significantly postponed two or more times. Equally serious would be a trend of slipped due dates by subsequent deliverables.

11. The first interim deliverable is found seriously lacking by the user; this may indicate that an inadequate detailed design is guiding the overall effort.

12. Lack of capacity planning of this new system on the existing equipment and personnel resources.

13. Planning and scheduling for system and user documentation, training material, conversion requirements and schedules is being treated as a minor afterthought by project management.

14. Third party Quality Assurance reviews have not been conducted.

The above are a subset of the total items that N&A senior personnel consider when reviewing a project.  Similar techniques are also used when analyzing the effectiveness of the IT environment, whether it be for Buy Side Due Diligence purposes or for corporate self assessment.

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Last modified: March 02, 2009