5 Best Practices for IT Project Management
5 Best Practices for IT Project Management
As we know, project management is certainly not a new discipline. Ever since project management found its way in Information Technology (IT) sector, project management got immense popularity among IT professionals. You might have heard about project success/failure rates as reported in reports such as IBM Survey or KPMG project management findings or McKinsey Study on large scale IT Projects. It is often debated whether IT Projects success or failure rates reported by each of these agencies represent correct picture or not. But one aspect that cannot be underestimated or you cannot ignore is IT industry would not have been any better without project management. It is a different story whether IT companies have been able to follow correct practices or they simply didn’t follow any IT project management processes. The reality is project failure rate is alarming
IT Project Management Different than Other Project Management?
I know above statement will resonate with many of you and especially those working in manufacturing, engineering sector consider IT project management as basic form of project management. For professionals in engineering and manufacturing sector, they work on tangible things like dam, roads, buildings, ports, engineering products, engineering services, etc. IT projects typically do not deliver anything tangible, hence it is quite likely that many professionals perceive IT project management as simple affair. I am not saying whether their perception is wrong. It might be the situation two/three decades ago, when the nature of IT projects being undertaken was primarily about data migration/ desktop/server management, etc. But the landscape has changed drastically in last decade or so. Now IT systems drive business processes, business decisions. More than ever, the lines are blurring between product and services. If we look at advance medical equipment (which are tangible products), have both hardware and software components.
Let’s look at some of the kinds of IT projects
- Business process management using software
- Enterprise/Custom software development
- Enterprise software implementation
- Network upgradation
- Cloud service enablement
As you would notice, there are multiple variables, complexities and risks involved in IT Projects. Hence it necessitates IT project management professionals to identify and stick to best practices. These best practices outlined below will help your organization deliver projects successfully,
Repeatable, Standardized IT Project Management Process
What can save a project from failing attributed to complexity, known/unknown variables? The answer is following the right process with right team to follow such process. A reliable, repeatable IT project management process to plan, execute and deliver project brings predictability, visibility and confidence. Just think of a situation where you do not have a standard process or following processes in haphazard manner.
Building a standard repeatable process means
- Predictability of the whole process being followed – what to expect in requirement management, roles to get involved, communication to be done, etc
- Planning process – Involving planners, Subject matter experts in the process of planning, resource booking and so on to provide realistic delivery timeline, resource planning & cost/budgeting estimation
- Risks management – it could be about scope, execution or anything else
- Issue resolution – how should issues related to requirements, changes be handled, etc
- Who can intervene, to what level during planning, execution/monitoring of a projects
- Instead of knee jerk actions, pre-planned, well defined approach
The best part about repeatable and standardized IT project management process is – it helps you in such ways that difficult situation doesn’t arise, and even if it arise, it guides you through the difficult situation. And the process can evolve with new business, new projects & new people and become more mature.
Practice What You Preach
Let’s say you have been able to identify the right project management for your business that defines roles, responsibilities, communication methods and workflow among others. But that’s not enough. You have to practice what you preach. You will have to invest in right communication mechanism, technology and IT project management software to enable & support project management process. Investing in right technology and project management tool will enable stakeholders to follow that process. A central platform will enable them to have all project information at one place, giving them greater visibility into project progress: across projects & portfolios. It will help them view, analyze performance based on past project data.
You should use technology and tools to aid your IT project management & delivery process. It can be in terms of
- Planning, scheduling in most realistic terms
- Performing resource capacity planning and booking them
- Communicating activities assignments to team members
- Project issue identification & resolution process
- Project risk identification, risk assessment, mitigation and risk management
- Tracking project progress with visual charts in dashboard
- Taking proactive actions to prevent a project from slipping off the track
Subject Matter Experts in IT Projects
You may be ready with best of the world’s project plan but if you do not have right people to carry out the project execution, the best plan will be of no use. So you need to select right set of people in your project.
If one look at projects in industries (beside IT), the projects are driven by seasoned professionals who have been working in that industry for considerable period e.g. infrastructure organization building roads or railways has subject matter experts who have been actively involved in construction, estimation, procurement, execution activities.
Though IT projects also follow same process of
Initiation > Planning > Execution > Monitoring > Controlling
Delivering IT projects to diverse industries, or business specific needs is a challenging task. In above example, if someone has to deliver IT project for infrastructure material procurement, the professionals and experts with engineering procurement experience should be involved, who can map IT projects’ best practices to deliver solution for a business. Essentially having rightly skilled, experienced resources are important for IT projects who can glue well with other IT professionals.
There are options and alternatives whether to hire, contract or outsource talent required for your projects. You can take judicious call to improve success of project delivery.
Communicate Clearly and Transparently
Peter Cohan states simple five tactics for clear communication like think clearly, articulate clearly, check with recipient after sending your message, eliminate communication gap, and follow up until right things happen. Believe me, communication driven by software as appropriate to organization’s business process, workflow and events ensures there will little/no communication gap.
Having clear expectations from project stakeholders, documenting & validating them correctly can save your project greatly. Process based, technology driven communication for routine activities (like task assignment, issue escalation, activity reminder) can make team members/stakeholders habitual to act on things on time.
Let me know what do you think of benefits of IT project management practices.
Additional readings about project management, leadership
- Case Study: What Happens When Project Team Has Dual Reporting
- Avoid These 10 Most Common Mistakes That Leads to Project Failure
- Back2Basics: Ultimate Project Management Guide: Project Planning
- Ultimate Guide to Select The Right Project Management Software
- 8 Reasons to Decide Whether Your Organization Needs Project Management Office
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