Your No-Nonsense Guide
In today’s modern business environment, every second counts. To outperform your competitors, and to maintain or improve your standing in the market, it’s essential to explore new tools, processes, or approaches that could potentially benefit your business. If you can find any to capitalize on, you may be able to uncover advantages that will drive future success. But capitalizing is often easier said than done.
These projects that are intended to improve operations, enhance productivity, innovate with more speed, or result in other business benefits, have many details to manage and oftentimes have many challenges to overcome. Even one error can cause a project to fail, and nowhere is this more true than in project management for IT.
IT projects are particularly difficult to manage. Harvard Business Review published a survey that found the average IT project went over its budget by 27%. Furthermore, they found that one in six IT projects wound up going over its budget by 200%, and its expected schedule by 70%. To push things even further, according to Gallup, IT projects that failed to achieve 100% completion have cost United States companies $50-$150 billion in lost revenue and productivity.
Finally, insight from McKinsey shows that among IT projects, software tasks go over budget by 66% on average, while non-software projects go over by 43%. Additionally, 17% of software projects fail to meet their stated benefits, while this figure jumps to an astounding 133% for non-software projects. McKinsey also reports that 17% of IT projects can go so poorly that they threaten the very existence of the company.
With all that doom and gloom, it’s a wonder why anyone even attempts an IT project. But because of the demands of modern business, along with advances in technology and business practices, IT projects are a must for nearly every organization, regardless of size or industry. With the use of proper IT project management techniques, processes, and best practices, you can avoid inclusion with these ominous numbers and achieve project success. Here is a no-nonsense look at project management for IT:
How is Project Management for IT Different than Project Management Elsewhere?
Project management for IT is essentially defined as an approach to the organization, guidance, and control of activities that relate explicitly to IT projects.
Although it resides in the IT space, project management for IT reaches all corners of an organization. It’s also not industry specific, nor is it specific to a business size. Whether large or small, organizations in nearly every industry need hardware installations, or must take on IT security, cloud computing, or data mining tasks to keep up with modern business practices and correlating digital transformation needs.
According to a recent survey conducted by Tech Pro Research, 70% of respondents said their companies either have a digital transformation strategy in place, or are working on one. Given the importance of digital transformation activities to long-term organizational goals and achievement plans, project management for IT is a critical component of future business success. If your IT projects fail, so too does your digital transformation strategy.
Challenges of Project Management for IT
While there are IT projects that can have an effect across the entire organization regardless of department, such as a cloud migration, there are others that focus on a sole department, such as implementation of new scheduling software for the Operations Team. Because of this potential for impacting nearly every department within your organization, individually or as a whole, project management for IT comes with a unique blend of challenges and issues.
Effective Communication and Collaboration:
With a workforce that’s becoming increasingly remote and physically separated, it can be difficult to keep everyone up to date with the most current direction and information, as well as to maintain clarity on current project standing and task assignments.
- Having effective communication channels, along with productive tools and a welcoming approach to all questions, is a key factor in the success of an IT project.
Task & Deadline Transparency:
In project management for IT, there is a lot of potential for change due to a variety of factors such as feedback from decision makers, priority shifts, modified resource availability, and more. With those changes come associated task and deadline changes that impact the workflow.
- A clear and transparent approach to deadlines and tasks helps team members adjust and respond to changes quickly, and keeps the project on schedule.
To say that new technologies are released regularly would be an understatement. There is a constant flow of upgrades, updates, and new versions that render aging technology obsolete. This can cause an issue in project management for IT, given the lengthy lifecycle of many IT projects which could be planned around utilizing technology that becomes obsolete before the project’s completion.
- Technology changes are inevitable, so it pays to have a plan in place for this potential eventuality.
Many IT projects are attempted without proper ties to project management. Without the controls, processes, and best practices that come with effective project management for IT, projects can easily go off course. They often go over budget, take too long, and fail not because the team couldn’t handle the workload, but because there were no defined roles, tools, or processes to guide it to completion.
- By selecting an ideal project management methodology, defining appropriate parameters, choosing the right team and tools, and utilizing IT project management best practices, you stand a much better chance of achieving project success.
Stages of Project Management for IT
Project management for IT can often involve a very lengthy and detailed lifecycle. To make tasks more achievable and attainable, IT projects are broken down into more manageable stages. These stages are unique to each other, but also related – helping to guide projects to completion in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Stage 1: Initiation
It all starts here. This is where the project is created. The goal, or goals, and objectives are determined, and a feasibility study should be performed to verify whether or not the project is advantageous to the organization, and to the bottom line.
Stage 2: Planning
Here, each phase of the project should be meticulously mapped out with razor-sharp precision. Resources are allocated, tasks and responsibilities are assigned, and deliverables are developed. This stage itself can often be done in smaller stages as well, given that project management for IT projects can require regular updates depending on the chosen methodology, the development of new technologies, unexpected priority changes, and other factors. Proper and effective planning in this stage can help minimize errors, challenges, and corrections that could occur in later stages.
Stage 3: Execution
In this stage, the project management team is led through each step of the project’s plan, where they complete tasks and move the project step-by-step toward implementation. Whether a product, service, installation, or other, the end-goal in this stage is to produce the defined deliverable(s) – within the defined scope and terms.
Stage 4: Monitoring and Controlling
Arguably the most important stage, the work must be significantly monitored and controlled to ensure adherence to budget and time requirements, as well as project quality, risk management, resource allocation, and more. Increased collaboration, workflow updates, and timeline tracking happens here to help the project stay within scope until completion. Planning for unforeseen events should also occur, to help make sure that any potentially sudden emergencies or incidents have minimal impact on completion.
Stage 5: Closing
This final stage is where all work is verified as completed and approved per the defined deliverables. Targets should have been achieved within the stated time, quality, and budget parameters. Ownership of the project would transfer from the project team to operations.
Crucial Responsibilities of IT Project Management
While there are many important tasks and assignments that need to be completed along the way to ensure a project’s success, there are a few general core responsibilities that the project team must do well in order to deliver effective project management for IT.
Aligning tasks and resources to meet the defined timelines is a fundamental element of determining a project’s success. Few projects are going to have an undefined timeline or completion date, so it’s essential to set the schedule in configuration with those identified dates. Additionally, overcoming challenges and adjusting tasks to meet changing priorities is of critical importance given the quick-natured pace of typical IT projects. With improper scheduling and failure to meet necessary dates, you could allow a chance for competitors to jump the line and present offerings to your customer base before you do.
Resources are essentially anything you need to complete a project. Depending on the parameters, you could need equipment, people, money, or other items. Allocating these appropriately by aligning their usage with the requirements of your project can help you ensure an effective and efficient workflow, and a project that stays on course.
If a project doesn’t make sense to the bottom line, it often isn’t going to get off the ground. Every project has costs associated with it, but every project that moves forward also has a budget – and that budget must be maintained to make sure that the bottom line remains healthy and intact. Proper controls and supervision must be put into place to keep your project within the confines of its budget.
In essence, the project’s scope is the magnitude of the work and its objectives. Having a knowledge of what the project’s scope is can help you define the workflow, develop plans, and produce deliverables. This understanding can also help you determine the level of involvement from different departments within your organization, and if any outside assistance will be needed.
Juggling deadlines, budgets, resources, deliverables, and more can be overwhelming. But the right project management tool can help ease that burden by simplifying development processes, task assignment tracking, expense monitoring, communication, and more.
With so many to choose from, finding the best project management software for your IT projects can be a difficult task on its own. Each has its own set of pros and cons, while some are better for more complex projects and others for high-level customization needs. The key is to align the software with your workflow processes as much as possible. Here are a few common tools used in the IT space:
This tool offers an extensive set of capabilities and a wide variety of templates to help you easily switch between project types. It also provides automation capabilities that complete some tasks without manual handling, as well as integration capabilities with other software tools.
Developed directly for software development projects, Jira is heavily aligned with the Agile methodology – offering a variety of Agile-correlated reports and charts.
Through its in-depth visibility features, and by delivering updates through notifications, Asana allows project teams to stay up-to-date without meetings or calls. These visibility features also include alerts to redistribute work when an overload occurs.
Tips for Successful IT Project Management
Success in project management for IT means getting projects completed on time, on budget, and within the defined scope. A lot of things have to go just right to make this happen. And while every project has a unique set of circumstances, parameters, difficulties, and challenges, here are a few general tips that can be applied to nearly every project to aid in its successful completion:
Scope Creep Prevention
Scope creep is the term used to describe how a project’s amount of work or objectives grow over time, and exceed that which was originally defined. When this occurs, budgets can be overrun, deadlines can be missed, and resources may have to be re-allocated, among other negative effects. Without careful planning, clear definition, and effective management of the project, scope creep can easily happen – but it can also happen as a result of new directives from key decision-makers. Scope creep is something you want to minimize or avoid altogether if possible, given the increases in time and costs it will cause.
Contingency Planning and Preparation
In project management for IT, unforeseen issues can happen. Bugs can happen. Errors can happen. There are times when things don’t go according to plan. There are many complexities with IT systems, and seemingly minor mistakes or issues can quickly result in major problems. How you react to these challenges is a key factor in determining a project’s success. By mapping out contingency plans, risk management plans, and the like, you can help ensure that if and when an error occurs, you’re ready for it with planned appropriate action to keep your project moving forward.
For the Best Results – Bring Your Teams Together
Without effective communication and collaboration, projects of any kind are doomed to fail. With project management for IT, however, it’s even more important to understand the impact a project will have on every department within your organization. The day-to-day business needs for your Sales and Marketing group, for example, are going to be much different than Human Resources. Without knowledge of each group’s unique needs, inaccurate assumptions could be made when defining a project’s goals and what technical solutions are best-suited for the organization.
Why IT Project Management Matters
IT projects can quite literally make or break your organization. Successfully complete IT projects on time and on budget and you’re well on your way to gaining market share and driving future business success. Fail to complete IT projects within scope, and the impact can be devastating. Ignoring IT projects won’t do you any good either, as this will cause you to fall behind your competitors in the market and eventually become irrelevant to your customers.
IT projects such as information security, network optimization, and cloud computing are essential to keeping pace with the flow of modern business – but without proper and effective project management for IT projects, these modern business necessities are not likely to provide the relief or advancement you were hoping for. With the amount of time and money you need to invest in these projects, if not well-handled, they can have a damaging impact on your productivity and bottom line.
9 Secrets to Keeping Your IT Projects Under Control
The information inside can help you maintain a stable grasp of your IT projects and keep them from running astray.