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Avoid These Six Traps for Successful Projects

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Everyone likes projects to be successfully delivered and no one wants to waste money, time or effort. Though the projects start with good intentions, we have seen time and again how people fall into traps and then it is too late for a turnaround. Let us look at six common traps that lead to project failure.

Trap 1: New or old project: Doesn’t matter. Approach is the same.

It is a good idea not to reinvent the wheel, provided you want to deliver a wheel the next time around. Irrespective of what the project is, many teams get into the habit of using the same artefacts, process and questions for every project. The uniqueness of a project is not captured and suddenly you are neck deep in the project to review these.

For every project, spend considerable time understanding the different nuances of the project. A good guide could be the Heuristic Test Strategy Model by James Bach. Focus on the Project Environment section and use those questions to get started on your test strategy. What succeeded in a previous project might not be applicable at all in the current project. Reusing without proper validation will be a recipe for disaster.

Trap 2: Mismatch in expectations

A problem can be defined as a difference between things as perceived and things as desired – Donald C. Gause and Gerald M. Weinberg
Most of the problems appear when there is a difference in expectations. Some of it could be due to the difference in understanding of terms, approach or the process itself. It is a good idea to state your assumptions, confirm that everyone is on the same page and then go ahead with the execution. You will save a lot of time and avoid blame game later.

Trap 3: Miss the use cases

Some people work really hard and it is still useless for the project. Let me give you an example. For a project dealing with saving customer records safely, the use case is safe keeping and retrieval of records. A mobile app is released for testing and team tests for multiple quality criteria like functionality, usability, performance, battery, memory, installability and so on. After release, the first complaint appears that the user is not able to retrieve the record on multiple devices.

If the team doesn’t understand the use case, a lot of effort can be wasted on things that are not important. A project and product is aimed to solve certain problems. If the problems are not solved, the project and product is a waste. As a testing team, do you understand the business cases the project aims to address with the product? This understanding is critical for project’s success.

Trap 4: Keep the stakeholders aloof

We have seen teams getting excited in the first week of a new project and there is everyday update to the stakeholders about missing credentials, request for documents, meetings and demo sessions. The stakeholder is equally excited and starts feeling confident about this testing team. Few weeks into the project and the team is busy in testing the builds. Slowly, the frequency of the updates reduces and then the stakeholder is left wondering about the progress the team is making.

Suddenly, it is too late to correct the course and the differences are magnified. With no updates, the stakeholder starts worrying if the team is even working on the project or not. Avoid this trap and constantly update the stakeholders about the project and the product. Even simple things like team members going on leave, the team going for a half day outing can be a surprise for the stakeholder if they are not aware on time.

Trap 5: Not sticking to commitments

A commitment must be honoured. No one likes surprises. When you forsee that you will be unable to meet a commitment, people appreciate you letting them know immediately. If you also mention what are the ways you are taking to counter the problems, your sincerity shines through. If you are afraid that you are sharing bad news with the stakeholders and try to solve the problem on your own, the stakeholders will be unhappy on knowing about it at the last minute. Rule 1 is to stick to your commitments. Rule 2 is to avoid surprises and keep stakeholders in the loop. Follow these two and most of the causes for bad project delivery would be sorted out.

The stakeholder also plans based on your plans. So, keeping them informed about the internal changes helps a lot and everyone can be on the same page.

Trap 6: Missing feedback loop

Though we keep adding new practices to suit the stakeholder, it is also a good idea to frequently check with them if the processes are useful. Do they have any feedback on the overall process or want any reports to be dropped? Are they facing any constraints with the current deliverables? What is missing? What is no longer required?

Questions like these help you get continuous feedback and deliver what is useful to the stakeholders. Remember that stakeholder’s satisfaction is important at the end of the day.

To sum up:

  • Beware of reusing a lot of existing processes for new projects. Suit your process based on the context.
  • Avoid mismatch in expectations. State your assumptions, communicate and be on the same page.
  • Don’t miss the use cases. Know what is important and what is a good add-on.
  • Keep the stakeholders informed. Consistent updates help.
  • Stick to the commitments you have made. No one likes surprises.
  • Have a constant feedback cycle and improve your processes.

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