Unfortunately in project management there are nothing but problems that need to be solved; without problems then projects would simply run themselves. It’s how issues are created, eliminated or dealt with where the real skill lies, and having a lack of skill can sometimes be one of the major problems to start with.
There are a couple of typical problems that I think make a huge impact if not tackled correctly.
Choosing the right person with a mix of technical project management training and the so called ‘soft’ skills goes a long way to ‘pre-eliminating’ lots of issues that may arise over the course of a project. The person needs to be able to manage stakeholder’s expectations as well as deliver all the separate factors that go into making the project a success. It’s no good having someone who is process led, but lacking interpersonal nuances as it will ultimately meant that the human element is neglected at great cost. Conversely the opposite is true when you’ve got a very good people person but is poor at process.
Typically on long projects the pace of change can outstrip the original objectives of the project. For example IT and computer software develops so quickly that within two years the technology will be almost obsolete. It can happen in broader circumstances, like the economic climate rapidly changing. Without managing and reacting to change, or at least building in flexibility into a project to allow for regular updates and reviews, it will end up being extremely costly to fix at the end. Planning and hedging goes some way to help, but really it’s how nimbly the project can adapt its aims and take into account the new set of conditions.