The Basics of IT Project Management

Jon Cowling 11-Feb-2016 10:47:59

The Basics of IT Project Management

The primary focus of any project manager is keeping projects on track, which can be a daily challenge when there are constant requests for change and additions to the project. IT Project management can be vastly different from other types of project management as the emphasis is on using software to manage the project while simultaneously achieving the goals and objectives of the organisation.

To succeed, you need to keep track of the project as a whole, while keeping a careful eye on time and budget. Here are some suggestions and guidelines to help keep your project on track and meet your goals.

Have a Solid Plan

Insufficient planning can be the kiss of death to an IT project, so ensure that you get involved early. Senior managers can set expectations without understanding the scope of the project, so make sure you sit down together and agree on some key measurable objectives.

IT projects depends on a variety of commercial and open source applications, databases, hardware, networks and, increasingly, cloud computing, so make sure all these elements piece together.

Agree Realistic Schedules

It’s essential to set realistic schedules for the project to ensure accurate forecasting. Rushing to meet deadlines can lead to people taking shortcuts and making mistakes which impacts on the entire project. It could also lead to insufficient testing time on a project.

Keeping projects on time involves all parties, so take care to agree schedules with everybody involved.

Deliver Incrementally

If you plan to release a single, large project in one go, you run the risk of a large-scale failure. It’s much better for all concerned to aim to deliver parts of the system incrementally, working to an agile framework, so you focus on one thing at a time and concentrate on getting that element correct before moving on to the next.

By committing the completion of each stage to your calendars, everybody will know what they should be focusing on and when.

Keep an Eye on Your Budget

Most IT projects start out with a fixed budget, so you need to watch the burn rate of your budget – if you’ve used 70% of your budget, but only delivered 30% of the project, then you could be in serious trouble. Make sure you include some contingency money in your budget and watch out for high-value elements like consultants.

Set out Clear Roles & Responsibilities

At the start of the project, make sure that everybody involved is aware of their specific roles and responsibilities, and they have a clear overview with how they fit in with the project as a whole. It’s also essential that everybody understands the overall aims, timeline and KPIs so that all parties have a clear understanding of expectations.

Establish Clear Lines of Communication

Communication can be a delicate balancing act in a large-scale project, as project managers need to ensure that everybody is kept informed on progress while taking care not to bombard people with too many details.

Develop a communication plan that errs on the side of over-communication, and take care to watch for team dysfunction – members of the team are usually chosen on their ability to do the job rather than their ability to work together, and it requires careful management if members’ work styles are incompatible.

Identify Potential Problems

It’s impossible to foresee every element of an IT project as there are so many variables to contend with. However, if you can identify potential problem hot spots before they occur and notify your client, this keeps them in the loop and allows them to respond quickly should the problem arise, which will help to keep your project on track.

Don’t Hide Bad News

It’s inevitable that problems may occur during the course of a project, but if something happens that will affect the project, in terms of time or budget, don’t hide this news from the stakeholders or management team. It’s always best to be honest and disclose bad news promptly as all parties will appreciate being kept informed.

However, always ensure that when you break the news, you have some suggestions for overcoming the problem so you can minimise delays and frustrations.

Also Read: The 10 Rules of IT Project Management