IT projects can take many different guises. They can involve work on IT services or infrastructure, development of applications or websites – or even research into new technologies.
Such projects can be undertaken in house by teams working in large companies, or by smaller teams from external third parties.
There are a number of different methodologies that can be used to drive a project. Waterfall and Agile are two popular methods. Waterfall involves setting clear targets from the outset, down to every little detail, in order to eliminate as much risk as possible before a project has even fully started. Agile development kicks off with key milestones in mind but is more open to changes throughout and is suited better to certain types of projects.
There is, of course, a certain amount of crossover in project management today but as development techniques evolve there are still key points every project manager should bear in mind. Let’s look at 10 rules key to successful IT project management:
1. Agility – Over the last decade the way in which IT projects are developed has changed a huge amount. A project must no longer rely on heavy amounts of documentation and rigid plans. Instead projects must be managed with agility, reacting to problems as they arise with swift action. This can save time and resources for all involved.
2. Delegation – Different managers work in different ways. Some are control freaks who like to have a say in every single decision and be aware of every little detail. This is rarely a good idea in IT project management. This best managers delegate to the right people and trust them to deliver, leaving more time to focus on the key milestones of the project and the overall picture.
3. Evolution – Just as the technologies involved in projects change, management techniques must evolve with them. Just as we’ve seen with agile development techniques in recent years, a willingness to change the way projects are run can yield very productive results.
4. Planning – Ongoing planning is arguably the most important task a manager has. And while a clearly defined, detailed plan is a prerequisite for most projects, it’s also vital that managers are able to incorporate ongoing changes without allowing the project to be derailed or fall behind schedule. Flexibility is key here, but the best project managers are also able to predict changes and problems that may arise.
5. Drive – There are many factors to consider when managing a project, some of the most important being the timeline, budget and resources available. The success of a project, alongside the final product itself, can be measured by these 3 variables. Driving a project to completion under budget and on time without over-stretching is a responsibility managers should relish.
6. Deliverables – Setting simple achievable goals is a must for any manager. To get the best out of a project team, it’s important that they all know exactly which direction they’re going in, and that what’s expected of them is deliverable if they apply themselves correctly. These deliverables must be clear, and everyone must agree with them.
7. Steps – Working through those deliverables, it’s important to take each step-by-step. A project can seem far less daunting for all involved if each milestone is reached before moving onto the next one. Project managers must review and approve each step and further instil in their team a sense of direction.
8. Risk – With every project there are risks and issues. Assigning a member of the team to monitor potential issues is wise. An atmosphere in which concerns can easily be raised is also important to establish. Documenting any risks and their resolutions helps keep track and keep those risks at bay.
9. Communication – A team in which open communication is encouraged is vital to any smoothly running project. Open communication will not only save time, but ensure no stone is left unturned and every aspect of the project is kept on track.
10. Foundation – Most important of all is to keep in mind the very foundation of project management. While management techniques may change and development methods evolve, there will always be 3 key factors to keep in mind at all times: Time, budget and quality.
With the right team members and processes in place, and those 3 factors at the forefront of all decisions, IT project management is a much less daunting task.