5 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Data Communications Projects

Posted by Ernie Garza on Sep 4, 2019

Planning Data Communications ProjectsWhether you’re new to data communications project management or you’ve been doing it for years, you want your projects to be successful. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), poor planning is the #1 cause of project failure. A successful project is built upon a detailed plan that guides all project activities and a project manager that each stakeholder understands their role in the project.

Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when planning your next data communications, new construction, remodeling and expansion project.

Mistake 1: Lacking a Strong Vision and Business Objectives

A strong project starts with a strong vision. Unfortunately, many data communications projects begin with a handful of assumptions rather than a single clear vision.

Never assume that everyone is on the same page. Involve stakeholders in the process of determining vision and objectives to ensure the process will be proactive and cost-effective. Spell out the vision for the project and create a set of business and operational drivers that go along with it.

Include the answers to questions like:

  1. What is the overall vision for the project?
  2. What are the end goals?
  3. Which specific business objectives does it address?
  4. What will be the measurement of success?

Consider future data communications needs, quality, reliability, scalability, IoT, budget, and the timeline/phases for the project. Agree upon the measurement(s) of success for the project.

Common measures of success for data communications projects include:

  • Spending zero hours on out-of-scope activities
  • Checking off everything on the installation checklist
  • Completing testing with no failure points
  • Finishing within budget
  • Finishing on time
  • Receiving a high customer satisfaction rating from the client

Mistake 2: Failing to Clearly Define the Project Scope

The dreaded “scope creep” happens to the best of us when out-of-scope issues, things outside the agreed-upon terms, begin to dominate the project.

Scope creep commonly occurs in a situation like this: You have prepared a data communications infrastructure. The client signs off on it. A few days later, the client begins to request small extras here and there. At first, these out-of-scope extras are allowed because they don’t seem like a big deal. But by the end of the project, they have added up to a huge overuse of time and resources.

Examples of scope creep include:

  • Unapproved features
  • Unauthorized changes
  • Unanticipated removal of extraneous hardware
  • Use of unbudgeted diagnostic time
  • Any activities that may be beneficial but are simply out-of-bounds for the project

The top causes of scope creep are a vague project definition, lLack of or inconsistent collection of requirements, lack of stakeholder involvement, and timeframe problems. These are issues that a good project manager can avoid.

When outlining the scope, consider applications, features, and services now and into the future: safety, security, stability, versatility, WiFi, building automation, communications, and other systems to be integrated. Consult data communications professionals that can help you think strategically about the capabilities and technologies that are best for the project.

data communicationsFailure to define scope is extremely costly and time-consuming for projects because there is no clear answer to what’s in and out of scope. A global study of project management found that scope creeps occurred in 68% of all underperforming projects.

Plan a Perfect Data Communications Project with this Essential Worksheet - Download now!

Mistake 3: Not Having An Accurate Timeline

An unclear timeline can threaten a data communications project.

In their Global Project Management Survey, the Project Management Institute (PMI) found that when organizations focus on completing projects within a deadline, they not only limit wasteful spending but also improve project performance overall. To put it another way: Successful projects.

Perhaps the biggest mistake here is assuming that a single end date is sufficient for creating a timeframe for an entire data communications project.

Using agile project management principles, creating segments of time with separate goals and check-ins goes a long way to keep projects timelines on target, catch problems early, and adapt to the needs of a project while controlling “scope creep.”

Here’s how it works: Let’s say the client’s absolute deadline for the project is December 31. This is one of many deadlines a project manager should have in place. Building backward from the final deadline, divide the project into phases and develop goals for each phase. Anticipate phases that have the potential to exceed deadlines, scope and budget.

Provide deadlines and related activities for each stakeholder group involved. Leave no ambiguity in terms of which activities must be completed by which deadlines. Be specific about who is responsible for finishing the work on time.

Mistake 4: Setting an Unrealistic Budget

Harvard Business Review found that the average project goes over budget by 27 percent, even if it is considered a successful project. They also found that a staggering one out of every six projects goes over budget by 200 percent as a result of poor project management.

Project budgeting is not done in a vacuum. Your overall budget will get dispersed across all phases of your project, so involving key stakeholders in your budget setting is important for:

  • building trust and support for your project
  • revealing potential issues
  • keeping everyone informed
  • eliminating surprises
  • reducing delays

Here are some best practices for setting the budget for a data communications project that everyone can agree upon:

  • Create an initial budget that realistically represents the needs of the stakeholders.
  • Involve stakeholders and update the budget accordingly.
  • Make allowances for potential variance.
  • Define the acceptable/unacceptable variance.
  • Ensure key stakeholders sign off on the final budget.
  • Restrict out of budget scope changes
  • Provide consistent budget oversight for the duration of the project.

Mistake 5: Working Without the Right Tools and Information

It’s almost impossible to manage a data communications project without tools like technology drawings, spec lists, and checklists. Whether they are digital or exist on paper, they’re critical parts of the planning process and a central source of information for everyone involved in the project.

During the project planning stage, these tools add clarity and reveal issues in every aspect of the process: vision, goals, purpose, timing, budget, scope, work areas, and so forth.

Including drawings, descriptions, and details for all areas will help stakeholders understand the current status, the end vision and any support needed in between.

Here are things you’ll want to be sure to consider:

  • areas to be remodeled/added
  • functionality and technology needed in the areas
  • civic/regulatory restraints and building codes
  • historical elements/restrictions
  • space shape and size
  • availability of technology drawings
  • hazards such as asbestos, lead, mold

The more information you can gather during the planning stage, the more prepared everyone will be when it’s time to perform the installation.

We created a planning worksheet to get you started the right way - download now.

Completing Successful Data Communications Projects

By avoiding the 5 mistakes we’ve shared here, you can increase the likelihood of completing smooth and successful projects. If your company needs assistance with a data communications remodeling and expansion installation, connect with Lemberg Electric today or request a quote.