IT Project Management 101: Everything You Need to Know And How to Succeed

IT project management involves initiating, executing, managing, developing, and maintaining information systems. The goal of these systems is usually to produce one or more applications to allow for easier, faster, and less costly operations. For example, the development of a new app to help customers manage their finances or the transition to SIP trunking to improve communications within the office. All of these fall under the umbrella of IT project management.

IT project management is all about ensuring projects get finished on time, within budget, and with valuable features that the end-user needs according to the project plan. While this may seem like an impossible task, one can accomplish it as long as there’s a good team of professionals working on the project and all involved share a common understanding of their goal.

IT Project Management Source

Phases of IT project management

Efficient management of an IT project will see the project progress through several phases, which are typically led by a project manager and outlined below:

  1. Analysis Phase: An organization will determine their needs to understand what they want their new system to achieve.
  2. Construction Phase: This part of the process will see the new system designed and the construction team instructed on how to build it per the project plan.
  3. Testing Phase: The testing phase is where teams of trained testers will try to break the new system. They will uncover any flaws or weaknesses in its design during this point.
  4. Implementation Phase: This stage sees the organization's new system launched and utilized. The organization will monitor its performance and review how things went.
  5. Follow-up Phase: The final stage of the project. This phase is when the team reviews the system's relevance to the business unit and can update it accordingly if necessary.

The role of an IT project manager

IT project managers are expected to have in-depth knowledge of everything that goes into building modern information systems, including process mapping the steps involved in running software projects. The project manager must handle all aspects of a project that help ensure that it is completed on time and within budget.

It also falls on IT project managers to perform a risk analysis to identify any points of failure within the project. The project management professional must provide validation for any built system, ensuring that features are not included unless necessary and can improve operations.

Some key duties include:

Setting goals for an IT project

IT project managers must set goals for a project before it starts. These goals revolve around the organization's business needs and managers must ensure they are met without taking too much time or money to achieve. These goals should always be achievable, and if necessary, adjusted along the way to keep them relevant.

There will be several milestones on the project timeline. These must be met on time to progress toward the final goal. The project timeline may include critical activities, such as releasing a beta system for testing by another department or signing off on an important document, or they can be intermediate goals such as completing a certain amount of testing. Project management software can help you track and measure progress against these goals.

Ensure the product works as desired

Aside from meeting the goals set for the project, IT project managers will also monitor how well their system operates. There can sometimes be problems with a new system that only become evident once it is up and running.

Ensuring the product works as intended does not necessarily mean that it will be successful in the market. Therefore, it is imperative for IT project managers to closely monitor how users respond to their system to understand its strengths and weaknesses better. Monitoring such feedback is usually the best way to do this, be it via customer reviews left on social media or sent to your email with a custom domain.

Assign tasks to team members

An IT project manager must assign tasks to each team member based on their strengths. Some people, for example, will be better at producing code for a given system, while others will be better at leading any testing that is required. This ensures that everyone on the team is working toward the same goal and gives them something to focus on.

When assigning tasks using project management software it is also advisable to stay on track. Additionally, you can also use tools that can incorporate training videos to make it easy to assign tasks and instruct people. It is important to remember that with the increase in remote working, many people are adopting asynchronous communication methods and may not always be contactable to receive task assignments.

Laptop demonstrating task management

Reporting progress

The final thing that an IT project manager must do is report progress regularly, whether this is through video call, using your business telephone systems, or reporting directly in project management software. This will help ensure that the project team knows where they are and how much closer they are to completing their goal. In addition, management can use this information to determine whether or not adjustments need to be made along the way.

Challenges faced by IT project managers

Some challenges frequently face IT project managers. These include:

Time and budgeting

Time and budgetary constraints will always limit the completion of any project. This means that the product must meet its objectives before being released. Otherwise, there can be a loss in quality or features that one would have included if the project team had more time.

There will often be a fixed budget for an IT project, so the project manager must carefully assess any additional work before being included, to ensure that the team can complete it within the constraints of the project.

Scope creep

This is a common pitfall for anyone working in IT project management and refers to a tendency for a project to become unfocused over time. It is often caused by new requirements added after the project has started, which can lead to it taking longer to complete. Project managers must be vigilant and try to avoid scope creep as much as possible.

Dealing with a constantly changing workload

There can be dozens of projects at once in any given organization. Some of these may eventually fail, while others will complete successfully. It is difficult for IT project managers to get ahead of the game because they are constantly playing catch-up.

Team working together

Working with unreliable team members

Like any other group, an IT project team will have people that work better than others. Some may even be wholly unreliable, either being unable or unwilling to do their assigned tasks on time and in a manner that meets the standards set by the business.

Management confusion

Sometimes an IT project manager can be unclear about what management wants. This confusion will make it harder to set goals and accomplish milestones on time, ultimately failing their project.

IT project managers must prioritize which tasks to begin in the team's project management software. This is because many things need to get done before the project can be considered complete. The overall goal of each task should always remain in mind. Remembering this will prevent those involved from deviating and losing sight of what they are working towards.

Tips for successful IT project management

The following are some tips that a successful IT project manager may benefit from:

Set up straightforward processes to avoid scope creep

The best way for an IT project manager to prevent project scope creep is by setting a straightforward process that outlines all of the steps involved in implementing their idea. It will help everyone remain focused on what needs doing and who should do it.

Negotiating

To be a successful IT project manager, one must have good negotiation skills. They will need to negotiate with the team and management to achieve their goals. In addition, they may even have to negotiate for the resources and tools needed to complete the project successfully.

Prioritizing

Prioritization is vital in any project. It means completing the most important tasks first, while the team can handle the less significant ones later. IT project managers must have an excellent ability to prioritize the goals of each task so that they know which ones will result in a successful project and which are less time-sensitive.

Continuously learning

Working in IT project management requires a successful IT project manager to stay current on the latest industry trends. In addition, it is necessary to continuously learn about how technology is advancing to keep up with these changes and implement them in their projects as necessary. 

For instance, a project manager working with communication systems, will need to stay up to date on the latest business phone line options to ensure that the final product is always of the highest quality.

Getting feedback

A successful IT project manager will always want to improve their skills and the services that they provide. Feedback from customers, management, and the IT team will allow them to understand better how they can do this. This feedback ultimately ensures that their projects successfully achieve all of their goals.

Types of IT project management tools

Here are some examples of IT project management tools that can assist managers in completing their projects successfully:

Gantt charts

Gantt charts are one of the most effective tools for IT project managers. They allow them to determine precisely where each task is along the way, which will make it easier to speed up specific processes and slow down others as needed.

RACI chart

RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consultation, and informed. This metric is a valuable tool in IT project management. It allows the manager to determine who is responsible for each task and which parties to consult when making decisions.

Project baseline

A project baseline is a valuable tool that will allow the IT project manager to compare their project plan against the accomplished aspect. This metric is an influential gauge for whether or not they are on track and accomplishing the project milestones.

Conclusion

Many tools and tips can be used by IT project managers to ensure they complete their projects successfully and meet their project schedule. 

The best way for them to see success is by avoiding scope creep, being a good negotiator, prioritizing the goals of each task, learning about how technology is advancing, getting feedback from others, and using Gantt charts, RACI charts, and baseline comparisons.

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