Catching anything bad early is always better than finding out later. A worn tire ready to blow, an illness, or even something like running out of shampoo are all better caught and addressed before the consequence occurs. The same is true with IT projects: catching warning signs before they turn into big, unavoidable issues saves lots of grief and red faces.
This post by Chris Scordo lists six potential early warning signs that team members and project managers should keep in their mind during the lifecycle of a project. Each points to a larger problem that may be lurking just under the surface. One of the most valuable indicators that often goes unheeded is that of a quiet client. As Scordo says, no news is not good news:
Ever had a client that simply doesn’t return calls, either because they are so overwhelmed or because they simply don’t have the knowledge to provide feedback? Communication among client stakeholders is absolutely critical to the success of a project, and when you find your client becoming unresponsive, it is easy for project managers to assume “no news is good news”. This can be a slippery slope, especially as critical decisions are made regarding business objectives and project direction. One way to counteract this issue without becoming an annoyance is to schedule a weekly status call with your client which can be as brief as five minutes. Secondly, be sure to send weekly status updates that show exactly what your team is working on, upcoming deadlines, and any action items you require of them. This type of proactive communication ensures your client remains engaged in a project and decreases the risk associated with an unresponsive client. By moving along a project path with no input from your client (even if you prod them), you put your project and yourself at extreme risk.
Another tip, and perhaps a more obvious one, is if your team is spending lots of time working past regular hours. While it is nice to know you have a dedicated staff of people working with you, it’s also important to recognize when they are overloaded. As Scordo explains, working overtime isn’t addressing the real issue: poor scheduling and potentially worse scope management. If your employees are consistently working overtime it’s time to take a second look at your project schedule and figure out what is going wrong.