What is IT Project Management?
IT project management involves the planning, co-ordination, monitoring and measurement of information technology projects.
An IT project could include launching a new piece of software across a business, developing an app, changing hardware or rolling out information security systems. Due to the complexity typically involved in IT projects, it usually requires project managers with specialist skills and the technical understanding to oversee a timely and successful implementation.
IT Project Management encompasses a variety of activities, tasks, deliverables and stakeholders and can range in scope from software updates within a company department to multi-billion dollar projects at governmental or multi-national level.
IT Project Management Lifecycle
We’ve done a deep dive explanation of the project management lifecycle elsewhere, but here’s a quick overview of the different phases involved:
Project initiation - This involves building a business case for why the IT project should happen, including its purpose, goals, ballpark costs and benefits.
Project planning - At this stage the outlines made in the initiation phase will be fleshed out with detailed numbers, including scope, budget and timeline, as well as in documents like a Statement of Work.
Project execution - This is when the actual work is undertaken and tasks are completed, where the IT project manager can see how reality stacks up against their plans.
Project monitoring - While execution is in progress, constant monitoring is needed to ensure that things like scope creep, budget overrun and under or over-resourcing are avoided.
Project closure - Once the project plan has been completed, this phase is when reflection, review and analysis of the success of the project can be fully realized.
IT Project Management Challenges
Historically IT projects have been somewhat of a white whale, particular for large organizations with complex projects. In fact there is a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to failed and over-budget custom software projects. It’s not just IT projects that balloon in cost of course, but the complexity of implementing IT infrastructure seems to grab a significant amount of attention. For example, there was the infamous IT project attempted by the British National Health Service that spiraled to a cost of £9.8billion ($12.9billion).
According to McKinsey, historically, on average, “large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted.”
The biggest causes of project failure are related to unclear objectives, lack of business focus, unrealistic schedules and reactive planning. That’s why the ‘Project Initiation’ phase is so important, particularly for IT projects. Setting clear and achievable goals with genuine buy-in from stakeholders will reduce the chances that things get out of control.
How to successfully manage IT projects
The success of a particular project will naturally depend on the specifics of what needs to be achieved, but as outlined above there are common issues and missed opportunities that can derail even the most simple undertaking.
Avoiding scope creep
This is when unexpected requirements are added to a project after the planning phase without the sufficient thought for resource and time constraints. It can seem harmless to add a task here or there, but gradually the project mutates into a completely different challenge from what was originally outlined. Learn in detail about how to avoid these issues in our Ultimate Guide to Scope Creep.
Use agile project planning
To quote Ferris Bueller - “life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. Life moves pretty fast and so does technology, for long-term projects it’s highly likely that by the time you complete the project, the technology involved will have advanced faster than you can keep up. Agile methodology is an adaptive and flexible approach that can help you to adjust the scope of the project as you go, and avoid being left behind.
Make use of project management technology
The complexity involved in assigning tasks, resources and deadlines for an IT project is almost always too much for humans to plan out without the aid of automation, which dictates a role for technology in project management. Intelligent project automation is essential for removing the hours (or days) needed to plan out a project, especially when the scope is in flux.
IT Project Management Software
IT project management software and tools empower project managers by making task scheduling, scenario planning, resource allocation, communication and measurement far easier. Typically software will include time tracking, the ability to create Gantt charts, Kanban boards and dashboards for real-time reporting.
It also gives the entire project team and stakeholders clear visibility over what is planned for the project, budget, timelines and once things are underway, good software should give an easy-to-understand picture of how the project is progressing. This should include potential disruptions, over-runs and bottlenecks.
Forecast is a project and resource management solution that is used by project managers all around the world to successfully deliver crucial IT projects. As well as basic features like task planning and time tracking it also uses AI technology to automate administrative tasks and predict problems and opportunities with enough time to act. It also has Advanced Analytics giving you full control and insight into the performance of your IT project.
You can book a free demo of Forecast here.