Throughout the business world, there is growing recognition of the importance and value of effective project management. This is especially true for IT projects, which have been notoriously prone to failure.
There is an urgent need for effective IT project management among organizations worldwide. That’s why demand for qualified IT project managers has skyrocketed in recent years, and why professionals with proven IT project management expertise command both high salaries and the respect of company leadership.
In order to understand how project management theories relate to this field, it’s important to first define what an IT project is. A project has several distinct characteristics that differentiate it from a process, including a defined scope, a specific timeframe, a fixed budget, and a clearly recognizable start and end point. A process, on the other hand, may incorporate some of these elements, but generally has no predetermined end point.
IT projects are typically carried out by a team of individuals who normally work in different departments or business areas, and whose efforts must be coordinated by a team leader or project manager. In most cases, the project manager is not the direct supervisor of the individual contributors. As the term “project management” implies, this role focuses on managing the project itself and not the people who collaborate on it.
While the IT project team members do not report to the project manager, that person is still held accountable for the successful completion of the project. That’s why strong IT project management and leadership skills are so important – the project manager has to find ways to motivate and inspire the team to meet every deliverable and deadline.
When it comes to IT projects, there are several problem areas that can lead to failure. Most of these issues concern the schedule and/or budget, and often result from the expansion of the project’s scope outside of the original parameters. Given the likelihood of scope creep and its resulting impact on IT project deadlines and budgets, it is important to apply proven project management strategies and tactics from the outset.
One of the better practices in IT project management is to clearly define the scope of the project during the initial planning stages, and identify how any changes in scope will impact the timeline and budget. A talented IT project manager knows what questions to ask at the beginning in order to minimize any changes along the way. Once the scope, schedule, cost and deliverables have been defined and agreed upon, the project manager can use that information as a blueprint for achieving project goals and meeting deadlines.
Another critical aspect of IT project management is to ensure that there is a system in place to promote ongoing communication between the members of the IT project team and ensure every person is aware of his or her deliverables. If there is a breakdown in communication or any uncertainties as to individual responsibilities, the project can quickly fall behind schedule or fall short of its goals. Because of this, strong IT project management leadership and detailed documentation are imperative.
When a company has a capable IT project manager on staff and optimal project management practices in place, it is likely to experience much higher project success rates. However, IT project management can also have a positive effect on many other aspects of the business, such as Total Quality Management (TQM).
Initiatives designed to drive improvements – whether IT-related or not – can benefit from the implementation of project management strategies and techniques. But in this example, IT projects that deliver all of the required features and functions can lead to greater customer satisfaction. In addition, IT project managers will coordinate their efforts with other individuals throughout the organization; together, they can identify ways to streamline supply chain management and ensure all team members have the proper training to fulfill their responsibilities. The end result of outstanding project management is better systems, better processes and better quality – as well as a more successful company overall.
PMP® is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.