Some would say that IT project management doesn’t exist, and I think I am one of them. Projects are just projects, some of which have a technical element and are done mainly by people in IT. More on that later.
When we talk about project management in IT, what does it really mean? let us understand better about IT project management and how it help to drive a IT projects better.
IT project management involves taking the principles of project management and applying them in an IT context.
This normally means delivering IT solutions and working in an IT environment, either in a permanent, agency or contract role. Projects could involve infrastructure, platforms, security, software, or anything in the IT estate. Even changing a switch could be managed as a small project.
However, the vast majority of ‘IT projects’ have a business element as well. We rarely implement technology for technology’s sake and projects should be initiated to support a strategic business objective. You might be rolling out a software update, but that ensures the organisation has a safe and stable infrastructure from which to serve customers. Customer service and business continuity are the larger goals; the technology helps ensure that they can be achieved.
Here are some projects that might look like IT initiatives but that have an impact outside of the IT department:
- PC refresh: Staffs need training on new interfaces, hardware, and applications. The switchover should be planned with operational requirements in mind so there is minimum disruption to working patterns.
- Change to information security policies: Implications for staff need to be investigated as there might be the requirement to get users to sign to say they have read and understood the new policy, or handbooks out in other divisions need to be updated, or existing contracts may need to be refreshed. Users need to receive some level of communication about what it means for them and when they will see new pop-ups etc.
- Telephony upgrade: Staff training might be required to deal with the switch to a new telephone system, especially around accessing previous call recordings or reports. Downtime needs to be managed carefully to avoid operational impact.
For that reason, it’s wrong to think of IT project management as a standalone discipline. At worst, the attitude of doing IT projects in a way that is considered disconnected from the rest of the organisation leads to a ‘them and us’ mentality where IT is somehow separate from the rest of the business. This attitude breaks down relationships and results in decisions being taken that are not always in the best interests of the organisation as a whole.
IT project management initiatives should be aimed at bridging the gap between project groups working as separate units. This is depicted in the figure below.
Following is the 6-step approach to effective project managementStep 1 :
The groundwork - First do your homeworkStep 2 :
Clarity of project requirements, project scopeStep 3 :
Planning schedule, risks, resourcesStep 4 :
Communication plan - clarity and frequencyStep 5 :
Monitor & ControlStep 6 :
Deliver, close and reviewWhat is an IT Project Manager?
An IT project manager
is someone who works within the IT division of a company, leading and managing projects that have a large IT or technical element, or those being led (or sponsored) by the IT department. The role can involve different things in different organisations. Here are some examples of the kind of projects IT project managers would be responsible for and how he manages IT projects successfully.
- An IT-led initiative for a purely technical project, such as upgrading network switches across the global estate.
- The IT workstream or sub-projects within a larger business transformation project or programme. In this case, they would work as one of many project managers or workstream leads on the project but would be responsible for the IT elements of the project.
- A project being sponsored by IT with a large business change element, such as a PC refresh or software development. As much of the work is technical, the IT project manager may lead the project but work with colleagues from across the business to ensure the project is managed with a ‘whole business’ approach and that change management is carried out effectively.
IT project managers look at their IT projects in the context of the wider business strategy. They have to. These days, silos in business don’t work and it is far more effective to ensure that the whole organisation works together.
Project managers in all teams use project management to make things happen. They contribute to the overall business strategy by shaping and delivering the work with the project team. project managers apply all the required strategies to drive the IT projects better.
That’s the reason I don’t think IT project management – as a specific, unique, and set-apart discipline – really exists. It’s all about managing the work at the end of the day, and we do that through a variety of ways, which together are called project management.
It’s a great career, hugely rewarding, and very interesting, and as a project manager, you can make a distinct difference to the success of your business by following up best practices for successful project management.
This is an edited extract from Project Manager by Elizabeth Harrin. Elizabeth is the author of several project management books and she writes the blog A Girl’s Guide to Project Management.