Have you ever wondered how IT project managers navigate their projects effortlessly while others struggle to keep their heads above water?
IT project management is hectic, and all the articles, methodologies, and tools can be overwhelming. Sometimes, you only need a simple way to take on your next IT project.
In this article, we'll share IT project management best practices with actionable tips to apply to your next project. We'll also highlight what it takes to become an IT project manager and some essential skills required to excel.
What is IT project management, and why is it important?
IT project management is the process of initiating, coordinating, and overseeing information technology projects to achieve defined project goals within a set of constraints.
A recent survey shows that 91% of businesses have engaged in some digital initiative. This shows that most companies today have IT-based solutions or rely on IT as an enabler for most of their processes.
In the new work ecosystem, 49% of business leaders consider project management maturity a key determinant of business success. IT project management dials up project maturity since it combines the best of modern-day technology and effective project management.
Make no mistake, IT project management is no silver bullet as additional business factors such as digital transformation, organizational adaptability, and innovation approach determine whether it's successful or not.
To run a successful IT project, you need to pick what works well from the old project management principles and improve on what doesn't work as well.
Key strategies for successful IT project management
Some of the best strategies to help you succeed in your next IT project are highlighted below.
Set the project plan
Establishing a well-defined project plan is key to the success of any IT project. Project plans are universal to all projects, but you need to reimagine the planning phase in line with modern-day information technology requirements. The five stages of a traditional project are:
This initial phase defines the "why" of the IT project. The need to run the project is outlined, and feasibility studies are done to ensure the project is worthwhile to the business. The project scope is also defined.
This phase describes the execution of the IT project. All the steps required to achieve the objectives set in the initiation stage are mapped out, and resources are allocated.
IT projects typically run in an agile fashion, and the plans defined during this phase aren't cast in stone. There needs to be a healthy balance between following the plan and accommodating changing needs during the project execution stage.
The IT project coordinator oversees the delivery, ensuring project milestones are met, and any challenges are averted as they arise. Team members must deliver their tasks within the stipulated project timelines.
This stage entails checking the output of each project cycle to ensure the required quality standards are met and that it is well on course to deliver the required objectives.
The outcome is assessed to ensure it's satisfactory. Additionally, teams retrospect on the project cycle and pick lessons that'll be used to improve the next one.
Each phase described above can be very detailed, with numerous moving parts, depending on the scope and size of the project. As such, IT project managers experience a hard time trying to stay on top of all the bits and pieces.
One way you can go about setting up a project plan is by using the Motion Project Planner capability. It helps you move from initiation of the project to evaluation in an easy, user-friendly, and intuitive way that allows team members to collaborate effectively and track their deliverables.
Find the right IT project management tool
IT projects are complex, but the right tool will break them down into small deliverables to make them manageable.
When shopping for an IT project management tool, take time to review the features and read reviews to ensure that you get the right one. A bad IT project management tool can be worse than having no tool at all, so take your time with this.
Motion is an excellent option, focusing on more than just enhancing productivity. It helps you navigate through the complexities of an IT project with confidence and clarity.
A few features to look out for when choosing the right IT project management tool include:
IT projects typically involve using multiple systems, and having a tool that easily integrates with the rest is a plus.
It saves the time required to export information from one tool to another manually. Additionally, it gives IT project managers end-to-end visibility of how different project elements are coming through.
Motion allows you to connect with most of your favorite tools, such as Outlook, Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack, Zoom, and Skype, to give you a one-stop shop for all project updates.
Most tools have a calendar today, but what additional features do they have on top of that?
Find a tool that has an intelligent calendar that doesn't only block time but helps prioritize tasks, optimize your schedule, and help you be productive.
The Motion calendar helps add tasks to your schedules around meetings, giving you a minute-by-minute plan by day. With a daily, weekly, and even monthly view, Motion intelligently builds a comprehensive schedule, gives recommendations, and even reschedules undone work.
The right IT project management tool should break down the complexities of a project into simple, executable tasks that can be assigned to the different team members.
This increases productivity significantly since anyone can see the overall project status, and individuals can filter and see their deliverables.
Motion's project manager feature adds tasks to your team's calendars, measures how much each member can deliver and builds them a prioritized custom schedule. It automates 90% of project planning, allowing you to do more.
Build a strong project team
A typical IT project team is made up of individuals with different skills, expertise, and experience. The people you select to deliver the project can make or break it.
A few notable roles required in any IT project include;
- Project sponsor - senior-level advocate responsible for providing vision, resources, support, and decision-making throughout the IT project lifecycle.
- IT project manager - responsible for planning, organizing, and overseeing IT projects.
- Business analyst - responsible for connecting technical teams and business stakeholders, documenting requirements, analyzing processes, and communicating to ensure the IT project deliverables align with business needs and objectives.
- Subject matter experts - individuals with specialized knowledge in a particular area, for instance, software developers, UI and UX designers, data scientists, IoT developers, and regulatory experts.
Having the right project team is one thing, but making sure they collaborate effectively is another. A great tool like Motion aids collaboration since it brings everything to the fore, and everyone is clear on their project deliverables.
72% of projects prioritizing soft skills met business goals, which is higher than those that didn't. This way, IT managers should apply emotional intelligence and focus on interactions between the team members, as these foster better project delivery.
Anticipate Common Challenges
Very few IT projects will run smoothly from initiation to closure, as challenges are part of the process.
A few common ones include:
- Scope creep
- Lack of stakeholder involvement
- Resource constraints
- Ineffective communication
- Change management
- Technology limitations
- Scope freezing
- External factors
- Project governance
You can find solutions for individual challenges, but one overarching way to solve most, if not all, of them is by adopting a project management methodology that makes it easy to solve them.
Agile project management is a flexible and iterative approach focusing on delivering value to customers quickly and efficiently. It's based on iterative processes, meaning teams focus on delivering bits of the overall work in shorter cycles to provide incremental improvement.
When the main deliverable can be delivered in increments of value, Agile is a valuable approach. When it has to be delivered all at once, for example, a bridge, Agile is obviously not appropriate.
By choosing the right methodology, teams can react faster, respond quickly to challenges, and move faster toward project completion.
How to become an IT project manager
IT project management has become an attractive career path, owing to how digitization has introduced elements of IT in projects globally.
Projections show that by 2030, there'll be a demand for over 25 million IT project management professionals. This indicates a huge opportunity for anyone pursuing a career in IT project management.
Project management roles are not the easiest. However, with the correct skill set and the help of some strategies highlighted above, you can have a stellar career in IT project management.
In addition to an understanding of project management methodologies, some skills required to excel in an IT project manager role include:
- Communication skills
- Team management
- Time management
- Risk management
- Problem-solving skills
- Budget management
- Technical expertise
Ready to start your next IT project?
Nothing beats the fulfillment and joy of completing an IT project despite the challenges.
We've highlighted a few strategies to help you run successful projects, and a proper tool will do some of the heavy lifting and allow you to focus on what is critical.
Motion’s intelligent project management and calendar schedule will deliver an integrated calendar schedule to your team based on priorities, deadlines and dependencies. It can pivot on quickly when you need to, when new urgent and important priorities arise.
If you're planning to start your next IT project, check out the Motion free trial today.