Challenges in Software Project Management

A project can be defined as unique one time work to be done for solving some problem or achieving some objective. This dynamic nature of projects make the project management discipline very challenging and project managers very demanding.

Project manager’s primary job function is to manage time and resources within allocated budget; that what is the core of the project management; while hanging in uncertain cloud of project management the project managers have to face some of the challenges associated directly or indirectly with the project.

The potential issues associated with project may grow up to exhaustive number of items depending upon the type, scope, and other attributes of the project; but common issues can be listed down as following:

Ambiguous Goal & Objectives

Defining clear goals and objectives for the project plays very important role; it allows project manager to have clear vision of the project based on which other project management activities are planned and all stakeholders commit the project sign off.

If you don't have clear goal and objectives defined for the project it is almost impossible for project team to achieve anything.

Uncertain goals and objectives leads project towards certain failure because most important stakeholder the project team is not agreed on the project goals and objectives; therefore it is become very critical to have clear goals and objectives for the project defined and agreed upon among the stakeholders.

It is project manager's responsibility to clarify project objective from customer and communicate to the remaining stakeholders. Apart from its importance the project goals and objectives in IT project are neglected unfortunately; which is one of the reasons of higher ratio of project failure in software industry.

Resource Allocation and Management

Resource management is key factor in project management activities. For a project to be successful required amount of resources must be provided. Generally in projects and particularly in IT Projects human resources with right skills to do the job play crucial role in overall project life cycle because project team does what the whole mess of project activities build for; so it becomes vital to allocate the right person to right job and reallocation based on certain project needs; if the resource utilization is accurate than there is fair change of project to meet its goals and objectives.

IT Projects in particular the resources have different workloads based on their involvement to one or more projects simultaneously; being as software engineer I can feel the pain of getting pulled of other project tasks while working one project.

The resource allocation and scheduling sometimes create frustration between team members because of inaccurate workloads and unnecessary shuffling and rescheduling. The project manager needs to have efficient resource allocation and scheduling strategy in order to dock the project to success.

Project Communications

Project communication has key role in project success. People work on project needs to coordinate and communicate in order to perform task assigned to them; therefore project manager needs to employ effective and efficient communication strategy in form of meetings and/or reports etc.

Project communication planning should be done at the time of project planning by selecting the tools need to be implemented for effective communication. Project communication is the core part of project management. It plays very important role in the project's success as an ongoing activity like risk management.

Project communication management is greater challenge for project managers as all stakeholders’ communication flows through them; project manager is the only person who communicates with all the project stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of project. This communication starts from planning, setting up goals, writing statement of work, work break down structure, risk management plan, and ending with project close out; in a nutshell the project communication is involves in every project activity.

Project manager should employ effect communication plan at the planning phase of project to avoid potential communication problems which may cause project failure. According to PMBOK Guide 5th edition; the effective communication is the one that is provided at the right time to right people while communication efficiency is the delivering information at right time.

Communication between Stakeholders: The stakeholders are the people need to know the project success and issues encountered in the project lifecycle. An average project may have many stakeholders involved so keep them all up to date required sufficient amount planning for communication.

The modern day projects added more complication while supporting stakeholders over distributed geographical location; it’s almost impossible to keep the stakeholder up-to-date without having substantial communication strategy in place.

Moreover, the expectations of stakeholders may vary between different people and culture hence the standard communication strategy may not be as effective as it supposed to be; therefore the project manager may come up with alternating communication strategy to make the project successful.

Communication within the project team: According to Verzuh (2012) project teams have four communication needs coordination, responsibility, authorization, and status. The team members are those who work on the project; generally a distinct group of people.

Moreover, it’s not necessary for team members to be working side by side and seeing each other daily; team can be disturbed on various geographical locations, so communication becomes greater challenge for such teams. Since the project manager acts as an interface between project and its team members it’s become greater responsibility to keep them engaged.

Realistic Estimation

Estimation is plays very important role in project management and its only mystery of the project no one know anything about it no matter how experience are? It is the dark shaded area of the project which cannot be predicted in advance unless you have already setup other project activities.

Unrealistic schedules and estimates creates frustration in project team itself because it makes certain resources overloaded while some of them are underutilized as per project plan; and everyone know overloaded team members are less productive in IT projects particularly.

It is very demanding for project managers because any changes in estimation effects the project cost, scope and vice versa; in each case all stakeholders must be acknowledged accordingly which requires sufficient amount of communications.

Scope Creep

Scope management in project is very critical; a well-defined scope is one of the pillars of project success. Scope creep is term used when there is any unintended increase in scope because of factors affecting scope.

A project may encounter scope creep when scope is not well defined, change management is not properly managed, inadequate requirements analysis or lack communications between stakeholders. Depending upon the project type scope creep is major risk for some project while it remains minor risk for others; scope creep results cost increase. This is the most commonly encountered issue, which causes the most of the software projects failure.

Risk Management & Control

Generally risk is any uncertain condition that may occur in any given timeframe. In project management Risk is any uncertain condition that can potentially impact time, scope, schedule budget or quality of project. Risk can impact project's objective & goals negatively if not planned and managed appropriately.

According to PMBOK - Risk is an uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has a positive or negative effect on one or more project objectives such as scope, schedule, cost, or quality.

Risk management is a continuous process which remains alive throughout the lifecycle of project; risks control is how you execute the counter measure against risks. Risk control keeps track of risks identified during the identification phase and also encapsulate the effectiveness of counter measures defined for handling risk.

Risk management register can be maintained and updated base on new risk identified in this phase and any change in risk potential effects. An effective risk monitoring plan helps project managers to take counter actions for risks before occurring, which boosts success changes for the project. This also involves the continuous communication with stakeholders to update progress with project risks and acquire their acceptability.


Projects in general and software projects in particular are dynamic and unpredicted; a business may come across the situation where they have to choose between the software projects under development and any existing software provided as service; in that case underlying project needs to change the strategy.

Project manager have to evaluate what services are provided third party software services; is it satisfying the business requirements for project under discussion? How much is effort is required to integrate in the existing business stream? How does it affect the marketing campaign for output project?

These questions along with the business strategy required significant amount of coordination and synchronization between stakeholders.

Authority and Accountability

Typically in IT projects when projects succeed there are many heads to take the credit but in case of failure there is one person asked for explanations the poor project manager.

Project authority plays vital role in project success; as project manager you need to make critical decisions during the project in certain situation, in order to make decision you must have sufficient authority on organization and project resources. An authority is basically the legitimate power of utilizing organization resources in order to get the project done.

Sometime authority is overlook in projects which may results in sever issue with project and may also results in failure because the lack of decision on time. Project manager and project team have responsibilities defined for the project; responsibility is what a stakeholder support to in underlying project.

Accountability is also layout along these lines if you have authority and responsibility you must be accountable for those. Accountability comes into picture if anything goes wrong with project. Authority, responsibility and accountability must be clearly defined in the project planning phase to avoid various issues may occur because of these three important factors.

Technology and Project Team

Completing project on time within budget does not means project is successful, customer feedback is the actually measure for project success. In software projects technical experts usually focus on implementing the latest technology instead of concentrating on solving business problem of customer; this causes bad user experience and the output product is not viable to customer business; having negative feedback hearts organization overall business because in modern world customer referrals are one of the key factors of business growth and conquering new markets.

End-user Experience & Training

End-users are the people who use the software, their experience and feedback with the output software project is very important. End-users must be trained to use the new software and the product must be easy to use in their prospect.

In IT projects technical and user inter face design experts usually don't consider the ease of use prospect of the software which may cause bad end user experience; and the product may not be optimal for customer business; which in turn dents the project success.

While designing the user-interface of the software the target audience of the software must be considered and it must be easy enough to use to regardless of age, gender and sometimes some disability too.

Make the software usable for disable people opens a whole new layer of audience there are some rules and regulations for related to software acceptability known as 508-compliance. For the most of the government’s web-based solutions it is required to have web-applications 508-compaint.

Geographically Distributed Teams

In modern day projects, particularly software projects; the project team may distributed on various geographical locations and even sometimes overseas. Distributed teams brings a different set of challenges of project managers, coordination and communication and synchronization becomes very critical and challenging.

The project manager needs to employ an effective strategy to manage distributed teams in order to dock the project to success. Distributed teams also creates issue with project team members, which makes team member less productive in collaborative project tasks.


Project management is art more than a science there is no exact formulas to tackle projects, each project is different in nature and dynamic in behavior. Throughout the lifecycle of the project from start to close out; the project manager is the one who keeps the project on track and manage the herd of stakeholders tide together; during the lifecycle of the project manager has to face many challenges.

Depending upon the type of the project there are certain number of challenges needs to be addressed by project manager, how well these challenges needs to be encountered depends upon project manager experience and it plays key role in project success.

Typical software project consist of developers, system admin, project managers and database administrators, it is very important for these professional to be aware of organization wide management scheme, in order to do justification to their responsibilities. Several tools are evolved over past few decades to encounter different challenges associated with projects, the project managers can leverage those tools to address most of the challenges; which makes project more likely to be successful.