Dave’s Top 10 Signs Your Project is in Trouble

Dave Coriale, CAE | 07.22.14
Topics: Project Management, Software Requirements & Selection


With apologies to Letterman… 

If any of these signs is familiar to you,
your project is in trouble.

10. Your business analyst is surprised that members have such a large decision-making role regarding the budget. 

Someone doesn’t know how associations work! Bless their heart, as they say in Nashville. Is this consultant going to be the right cultural match for your mission-critical project?

9. Senior staff seem uninterested in the new AMS and refer to it as “the membership database.” 

Uh oh, the CEO needs to get them up to speed quickly. They need education on the big, strategic picture – how the AMS will help the association fulfill its mission. Without senior-level buy-in, participation in requirements gathering, testing, and training will be difficult to obtain from the rest of the staff.

8. The governance director has been handling committee appointments the same way for 20 years and doesn’t intend to change now. 


System implementation provides an opportunity to improve the member experience and staff productivity. Leadership needs to step in and explain that processes may have to change if the association is to take full advantage of new technology. If staff resist change, expensive customization is often necessary, and the same old inefficient processes live on.

7. A department head says his staff is too busy to participate in requirements gathering. 

Without staff input, requirements won’t accurately reflect business needs and the new technology won’t meet expectations. Before the project begins, the project manager must make sure the timeline is reasonable given department obligations, and the CEO must get a promise of cooperation from department heads.

6. A staff working group is in charge of the project. 

No one person has ownership or accountability – that’s big trouble. Everyone should have buy-in, but the buck has to stop somewhere.

5. Only the IT director knows the project plan and timeline. 

If you need the cooperation of staff, you must share the project’s goals, plan, and timeline with them. Otherwise, they won’t be committed. You’ll have trouble getting on their calendars and you’ll likely run into schedule conflicts. 

4. The stressed-out membership director is put in charge of managing the project. 

This is a recipe for failure. Project management takes 50-100% of someone’s time and requires specific skills and experience. Don’t make your staff try to do two full-time jobs.

3. Your colleagues don’t understand why they have to meet with the business analyst. 

If the project goals and expectations were not explained to them, they aren’t going to understand their role in the project. Didn’t anybody work to build a shared vision for this project?

2. There’s money in the budget for the system purchase and implementation – but nothing else. 

Projects are more likely to fail when requirements analysis and project management are short-changed.


And – drum roll – the number one sign your project is in trouble… 

Everyone, including the CEO, treats the idea of requirements meetings like a root canal. And they’re still wedded to “the way we’ve always done it.” Argh!

Culture starts at the top. Staff won’t see the positives if leadership doesn’t. Don’t move forward until you have the cooperation and commitment you need from your association’s leadership – the CEO and senior staff.

And don’t forget to brush and floss regularly…


Flickr photos, top to bottom, by Billychic, id-iom, and adoephoto

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