In life, there's generally a right way and a wrong way to do things. Knowing the difference between the two can mean the difference between a successful project and a lot of lost time, effort, and resources. IT project management is no different, and there are some useful points to keep in mind about how to carry out an IT project.
The Keys to Success in IT Project Management
Some estimates figure that IT projects have an average failure rate of around 70%, that's a lot of unnecessary loss to factor into bottom-line calculations, and it's the kind of thing that makes proper IT project management so valuable. Using best practices in IT project management can at least help trim this rate and make your bottom line look better for it.
Standardize a process.
The best way to ensure success is not to go in blind. Create a standardized process that can be used universally with any IT project you work on. When you know what to look for, you'll
have a better chance of achieving success. Better yet, subsequent projects will start up faster. You will have a clear process in place that provides a project starting point and you'll know just where to start — the same place you start every other project. This process can also address issues that may crop up early on with an established protocol for a response.
Back that process up.
Once you've established a project methodology and overall process, the next thing to do is ensure you have everything needed to actually execute that process. Get the right hardware and software in place to support these projects, and consolidate the data these projects generate so you better know how to address future projects. This includes project management software and workflow-related tools, so it's apparent who should be working on what and when.
Don't forget the data.
Additionally, put procedures in place to gather data for later interpretation. The same reasons to collect and interpret data throughout the company—to produce actionable insights—is no different with project management. What you learn about a project today may be useful for a project a year from now. Accounting for data gathering and data management up front improves the likelihood that the data will be properly gathered, archived, and applied.
Make that standard process flexible.
There's one great danger inherent in developing a process to address IT project management: that the user will become too wedded to the process and stick to it even at the wrong times. A process that doesn't account for technological advancements, internal changes, fluctuating resources will likely end up solving the wrong problem. That's just another way to say “failing.” It's also important to regularly update the old process to accommodate new information. A standard process is the right jumping off point, but as Helmuth von Moltke once noted, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
Hire the right people.
The right people can make a huge difference between failed projects and successful ones. Naturally, the right skills are important, but that's not the only issue to think about. Also consider those who are less likely to leave mid-project, those who are content with their work and unlikely to seek alternative employment mid-stream. Trying to replace a lost employee comes with costs under any circumstances. Time and opportunity lost while trying to find a replacement, as well as
the resources lost in trying to train and onboard the new hire that just left, both hurt the bottom line. Also, consider looking for the right quantity of people, because no matter how ingenious a small team might be, there will always be situations that demand more eyeballs on screens and more fingers on keyboards. Trying to do such a project with too few people will increase the odds of failure and resources lost with it. Worse, it improves the chances the skilled people you hoped would do the job will themselves leave.
Establish—and use—proper communications techniques.
No process works well in a vacuum. A process can only start a project rolling. Proper communication techniques allow a project manager to better tell when things are going wrong, and it can inform them about how to step in to improve the situation. If the PM believes nothing's wrong, they'll address the issue accordingly, and that's the last way a project should be managed when things are going wrong. Information needs to flow freely, in all directions. The staff on a project needs to know when resource supplies change or when timelines have shifted. And the project manager needs to know when problems have risen to the level where they might derail a project plan.
Understand the difference between the team and the individual.
This might sound a bit obscure, but all IT project management best practices are not created equal. Best practices for a team tend to focus on establishing the parameters of the project, and determining what needs to be done to carry it out. Individual best practices, meanwhile, address issues like personal accountability and establishing milestones as a means to keep the individuals on a team motivated to accomplish their tasks.
Following IT Project Management Best Practices Is Rarely Enough
What do you do when the best practices of IT project management aren't enough to get the job done? A good place to start is to turn to UTG. We help our managed services clients with certified PMs on staff navigate their way through sticky situations. We have a background in managed IT services, backup and disaster recovery, network and system engineering, and plenty of other areas that allow us to get you unstuck from your IT problems. So while best practices can go a long way, for those times when you need a little something extra, let us help you through your roughest times.