IT project management is a broad field. It refers to all of the steps that go into planning, supervising, and carrying out a project. Inevitably, a broad range of IT project management challenges tend to arise, but don't worry. There are tried-and-true solutions to all of these problems.
In the IT world, a project is a one-time job, usually a substantial one, like deploying new software, constructing a website, or overhauling your system infrastructure. The opposite of “project” is “operation,” which is a process that repeats itself indefinitely. In IT security, for example, scanning for viruses is an operation, while installing a firewall is a project.
IT project management comes with a lot of built-in challenges because it involves working with a diverse team of people from different departments. A successful project manager needs to juggle the needs and demands of all of their team members, keep their team on schedule, and communicate effectively with their staff and clients. It’s a complex undertaking, to say the least, and it’s not surprising that most project managers run into issues along the way.
Want to learn more about some of the common pitfalls of IT project management? Here are four common issues, as well as some ideas for how to handle the problems you may be facing.
When you carry out an IT project, you’re usually working with a broad group of people from different departments in your business. To be successful, you have to make sure that your engineers keep your designers in the loop. You also want to be sure that everyone keeps your marketing team updated on their progress so that marketing can roll out an appropriate public campaign.
Unfortunately, this tends to be easier said than done. All too often, the different departments of your business operate independently and don’t really know how to communicate with each other. They may use different databases, different metrics, and different tools to measure the progress of their work. This makes communication even harder because your teams are not really speaking the same language.
As a project manager, you can facilitate communication by holding meetings in a range of different formats. Make sure to plan formal and informal meetings, small-group and whole-team gatherings, and phone and video chats. It’s also a good idea to encourage your team to build trust by getting to know each other on an informal basis. The more different ways that you can meet, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to communicate about your shared progress.
Even the most meticulous planners can run into some problems when they’re working on a major project. That’s largely because the bigger the project is, the harder it is to define objectives, especially when multiple divisions are taking part in the project. It’s unfortunately pretty typical for teams to set up a project with only hazy goals and poorly defined benchmarks.
In the planning stages, it might seem like everything is going to work out just fine. But once the project gets underway, it soon becomes clear that nobody is really sure what they’re working toward. Each participant has a slightly different view of what the project’s goals are. Everyone has their own take on how to measure the success of the project.
The result? Without a clear set of benchmarks to track progress, your project can end up bloated and off-track. Without clear objectives, it can also be hard to determine funding for the project and to allocate work hours for staff to dedicate to the project. All too often, progress stalls and the project goes unfinished. In fact, an estimated 39% of projects fail due to a lack of effective planning.
Fortunately, as project manager, you are in a position to nip this issue in the bud. At the outset, before any work begins on a project, insist on clear goals and benchmarks. If department heads hedge, hem and haw, or use vague language, stand your ground! Remind them that in order to succeed, you need to have communicable, verifiable standards for measuring progress and assessing success.
Once a project is underway, it can take on a life of its own, sometimes to such an extent that people forget about the project’s end users. This is a particularly vexing problem in complex IT projects. Engineers and IT architects can sometimes fail to understand the needs and capabilities of the average IT consumer. That can result in a product that has incredible capabilities but is not intuitive to use for the average person.
It's as if your team was tasked with designing a minivan for a suburban family, but they got sidetracked and came up with a new kind of racing engine. Yes, it’s nice to have all that speed, but it doesn’t take the end-user into account at all, and it falls short of the project’s actual goals.
The solution, as always, is in communicating and planning. It’s a good idea to bake some testing and focus grouping into the project at the planning stage. It’s also a good idea to lay out very clear measures of what a successful project will look like. As a project manager, part of your job is reining in your staff and keeping them focused on the true objectives of your project.
In many ways, the problems that plague project management all come down to variations on a theme: Successful projects need strong centralized management. That’s what makes effective planning possible. It's also what enables teams to communicate and stay focused on their goals.
So, how can you improve your organization? As the project manager, there are limits to how much you can do. No matter how thoroughly you plan, and no matter how many hours you put in, it’s still not realistic to think that you can achieve all of the planning needed to pull off a complex project.
If you’re in project management, you don’t have to get by with a cobbled-together management system any longer. Working with cloud project management software and IT PSA (professional services automation) software can be a game-changer for your team. Accelo can help you create budgets and plan for the use of your resources. Accelo’s platform also facilitates clear communication between teams by making it easy to gain visibility into schedules and by creating a shared, central location to edit all stages of a project.
Accelo provides professional service businesses with the tools and resources they need to manage client operations, including sales, quotes, projects, tickets, retainers, timesheets, billing, and scheduling all from one place. We help small to medium-sized businesses maintain long-term client relationships, nurture prospective customers, stay competitive in the market, and provide transparency for the entire business, which helps boost their bottom line.
If you’d like to learn more, sign up for a free trial of Accelo today.