How Large Companies Prepare for Project Management Challenges

Big companies may enjoy some advantages when it comes to planning and executing projects. They’re likely to have larger budgets and more staff available to drive priority initiatives forward than smaller organizations. They might have more influence to negotiate favorable vendor terms and schedules.

But while large businesses typically have access to the resources necessary to move large, complex, high-risk, and highly impactful projects to completion, some elements of the enterprise environment can stand in the way of project success. Teams responsible for moving projects from idea to reality must be ready to overcome the challenges that sometimes exist in bigger firms.

Stakeholder churn

One positive of working in a company with a large workforce is that new roles and promotion opportunities come up more frequently, offering career development opportunities for high-performing employees. However, this complicates things for project teams. When the list of sponsors, stakeholders, and internal members changes frequently, it can create delays and other issues. New participants must be brought up to speed. The introduction of new ideas may prompt a time-consuming rethink of key project elements. Influence and its ability to make things happen quickly might be lost if a senior-level supporter leaves. Maintaining forward momentum can be difficult when the team is in a constant state of flux.  

Protracted budget and approval cycles

The levels of bureaucracy usually expand as a company grows, resulting in additional obstacles to project progress. The need to work with multiple reviewers and committees can dramatically slow the movement of budget or staffing requests, as well as other project approvals. Complex decision-making processes that involve many stakeholders with different priorities and potentially conflicting objectives may further stall important project milestones.

Resource conflicts

Managing and allocating resources is complicated enough with only one or a few projects in motion. Big companies are more likely to run multiple projects simultaneously, elevating the difficulty of overseeing resource needs, assignments, and consumption. And with the large number of individuals involved in coordinating resource usage, the project team’s ability to accurately forecast, track, and adjust resources and their allocation in a timely fashion is often a significant burden.

Clunky communications

In large organizations, project teams often need to orchestrate communications and collaboration across a lot of people in many different functional areas. That means keeping disparate groups up to date, fielding questions from a wide variety of individuals, and mediating discussions—and occasionally disagreements—with stakeholders across the business. If participants are dispersed across different regions and time zones, maintaining alignment is even more complicated.

Too many technology options

Project teams and their stakeholders use many types of software to support and power their work. Unfortunately, big businesses often have so many different tools in the mix that teams may find it difficult to gather project participants into just a handful of them to keep everyone engaged and informed. Attempting to maintain an unwieldy combination of technology options also creates scenarios where information may reside in more than one system, where records could be in conflict or out of data, and where concerns about data integrity might hamper the project team’s efforts to complete initiatives on time.

Resistance to change

Most large companies were once small companies. The intervening years of growth and development gave processes and preferences a long time to become entrenched in the organization. Working through those, and sometimes working against them, can be a big obstacle for project teams tasked with executing initiatives that drive new innovations and switch up the status quo. Internal resistance to change can be a thorny challenge, along with ingrained organizational culture and rigid bureaucratic structures.

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