Managing an IT project and seeing it through to completion usually requires more than simply monitoring a team and motivating employees. After all, Project Manager is a very broad job title. Even though the shortage of resources is one of the many reasons IT projects fail, it goes deeper than that.
According to Virginia Tech, most IT projects will go through five stages:
This is often referred to as the project’s life cycle. But why exactly do IT projects fail? And what can project managers do to reduce the failure rate?
Having sufficient planning
Planning an IT project is hard. Not because planning is difficult in and of itself, but because it is one of the most misunderstood terms in project management. A project plan is not a timeline nor should it look or read like one.
A project plan is often a set of documents that are expected to change throughout the course of a project. You can treat this like a roadmap — something you can refer to when needed to keep the team on the right path and to keep track of deliverables.
Carnegie Mellon University has a great checklist for creating project plans, from the necessary documents to how to put a plan together to be as efficient as possible.
Once a plan is in place, it is much easier to manage a team without having to micro-manage. It is an essential part of any IT project that helps define the scope, establish turnaround time, set the budget and get approval from upper management.
Holding efficient meetings
There is a love and hate relationship when it comes to meetings in the IT industry. Some love them as it helps them stay on track, and some loathe them and see meetings as a waste of time. Either way, meetings are a necessary evil, especially when working with medium to large teams.
Before even scheduling a meeting, make sure it is the best way to resolve issues and move the project forward. Would a one-on-one meeting suffice? Are there more pressing tasks that need to be completed? What will team members get out of the meeting? Will all critical staff be able to attend?
The best ways to hold efficient meetings is to plan them in advance, set an agenda, keep it quick, stay on topic and set action items at the completion. Needless to say that careful planning and ensuring the meeting is necessary will get much better results from team members attending.
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Hiring people with the right set of skills
Hiring people with the right set of skills will go a long way to ensure the success of any project. Unfortunately, while project managers need to be aware of all the phases of a project and its technical challenges, they cannot clone themselves. It might be beneficial to outsource part or all of your project. Regardless, it is mandatory to hire talent that has a proven track record, is approachable and understanding of those challenges, and can work under pressure.
Project managers must not be afraid to make decisions that will move the project forward, even though those decisions may not favor everyone on the team.
Breaking a project down into manageable pieces
The scope of most IT projects is vast, thus breaking the project down into smaller and more manageable pieces is key. A great way to achieve this is to have a project management software or ticketing system in place.
Tickets or tasks are created for every small part of a project and placed in milestones or categories, and each team member is then responsible for completing their assigned tasks until each milestone is reached. This ensures everyone has an adequate workload, and it allows the project manager to see at-a-glance how the project is coming along and have a sense of the bigger picture.
Working around budget constraints
Looking at the Project Management Triangle, you will notice projects usually consist of three important things: cost, schedule and scope. The schedule and scope of a project are the easiest to work around provided you have the right team. Budget on the other hand is a more difficult beast to tame as it impacts both the scope and turnaround time of a project.
While project managers have some level of control over the cost of a project, budget is often decided at a higher level and often imposed on project managers. Hiring the right people, breaking the project down into smaller pieces and making better use of the team’s time — especially when it comes to meetings — will help alleviate the burden of a tight budget. It is everyone’s responsibility to keep the budget in mind, not just the project manager’s.
Budget cuts do happen, but with a solid foundation and a motivated team, even those projects can see the light of day.