What Is Information Technology (IT) Project Management?
Information Technology (IT) project management is defined as a process of managing teams and technologies to achieve the desired goals for the organization’s information technology plan and strategy.
It covers a large swath of a company’s operations given the reach of information technology within organizations today, which is practically every working department. Based on time-frame needed to plan and execute, IT project management goals can be:
- Short term – such as software integration/implementation, which span across a few days;
- Mid-term – such as web development, usually takes a few weeks;
- Long term – such as software/app development, could take a few months or years;
- Very long term – such as database management, network and security management etc, could take years or may need continuity perpetually.
In order to fully understand the execution of the definition and goals, it is first important to understand and take note of all the moving parts within the IT Project management eco-system.
Key Components of Information Technology (IT) Project Management
Here are the key components:
- Human resources: This includes every member of the project team, shared or fully dedicated, part-time or full-time employees.
Your human resources are the most integral part of your project, who will be helping you manage all other components of the project.
- Software: Making a list of the software solutions you need to complete your IT project. This includes OS platforms suitable for programming requirements, testing and debugging tools, run-time tools and post-deployment tools.
- Hardware and networks: While hardware and networking typically points to your computer system requirements based on project needs, it also takes into account testing environments and devices such as tablets and mobiles, and their required configurations.
- Security and access management: While your team is working on a new project, it is always open to hacks and malware even at a developmental stage.
Security and access management is the process by which an IT manager complies with organizational security standards and any other security requirements specific to the project.
This includes security applications (on premise and cloud), digital authentication tools and physical (work space) authentication tools (like biometric scanners).
- Data storage and management: One of the core tenets of IT project management, is to ensure that the commercial goals are met, which includes customer/user experience. Both CX and UX depend heavily on effective data management for personalization, ease-of-fetching and feeding the data back into any customer touchpoint/interaction.
- Integrations: Integrations act as utility-multipliers. They are key to ensuring that your product can integrate with a non-competitive software that your customer or potential customer may already be using. This increases the overall value of your product’s utility in the customer’s current tech ecosystem.
IT project management requires team leads to develop integration requirements with existing applications in the market. Usually a new software will have a few default integrations available, but as customer needs grow, new integrations are built.
For example, QuestionPro – a survey software allows API integrations with Salesforce CRM – which allows users of Salesforce who have the QuestionPro license as well, to send surveys to customers directly from the Salesforce app.
Information Technology (IT) Project Management Lifecycle
IT project management lifecycle includes:
- Planning: Project planning includes creating roadmaps and schedules delivering each moving part in the project. These moving parts include team member assignments, UI and UX product goals, type of development methodology, phases of development, testing frequency and prioritization, alignment with business goals, marketing and go-to-market plan.
- Resourcing: Project resourcing includes both human and tech stacks. Typical requirements among human resources could include software engineers, CX specialists, UI and UX designers, supervisors and the project manager. Among tech-enablers, apart from coding, testing and debugging platforms, a successful IT project management also requires file sharing, time tracking and communication tools. This is especially true for a post-Covid world which is increasingly leaning towards remote working and distributed teams across geographies.
- Executing, Testing, Debugging: Executing code blocks, testing and identifying run-time errors and debugging identified issues are basic to any IT project management.
- Deploying: Deployment plan includes time-bound schedules for each sprint, final completion date, outreach/alignment plans for launch, and any other cross-team alignments needed for the achievement of deployment goals.
If the project is customer facing, they need to be notified on the expected update through blogs, emails, newsletters, calls etc. If the deployment will lead to downtime of an existing product, whether internal or external, all stakeholders must be kept informed.
While the basic tenants and components remain the same, there are 4 industry standards for lifecycle models/ approaches to IT project management:
- The waterfall model – where the complete set of 5 stages are completed one by one. Once the final stage is completed, the project is complete. There are no iterations beyond the testing phase, which is followed by the final deployment. Such a model is useful when there is ample time for the full project to be completed at once without need for any phase-wise deployment.
- The Spiral/Iterative model– where all 5 stages are completed, and then repeated till the desired goal is complete. For example, such a model is helpful in constrained resources/ time and when the need is to release functional versions and improve with each iteration.
Such models are typically applied in web development where new websites may be released with basic information and content, with further iterations to improve content and design.
Hybrid model (Agile)– where the waterfall model is combined with iterative approach. Here, project work and deployments are split into smaller sprints, where each sprint builds on the previous sprints and each sprint is released using waterfall model. The agile model is a well-known standardised outcome of hybrid life cycle methodology.
Top 6 Information Technology (IT) Project Management Best Practices for 2021
IT project management comes with its own set of challenges. These include lack of clarity among team members, disputes on methodologies to be used for coding, stakeholder management, etc. Below are the top best practices to follow to ensure prevention of issues, seamless functioning of the IT project team, and delivering expected outcomes:
- Set communication standards
There are four 2-way communications within a project environment – communication between management and project manager, between project manager and team members, between team members and finally, although rarely, directly between management and team members.
A communication standard will be needed to ensure that every stakeholder understands when communication is expected, who all need to be involved and chain of escalation when needed.
Such standards ensure professional communication, reduces redundant conversations while ensuring that right members are looped into the required conversations.
- Set delivery expectations
One of the key requirements for a successful IT project management is the need to set delivery standards.
This entails that every member of the team is aware of their work deadlines, and the protocols to follow in case deadlines will not be met – including informing team members and project managers, requesting updates to deadlines and providing new estimated completion dates.
Managers also need to ensure that team members understand the priority of tasks and which task deadlines cannot be shifted at all.
- Aim for open-door communication standard within team
An open-door communication aims to set ‘free-to-approach anyone’ standards where invariant or hierarchy, any employee can directly approach any team member, the managers, and the senior management team.
While this is difficult to implement in large corporations, it can still be taken to several layers of organizational hierarchy.
One of the biggest challenges to successful project management effectively stems out of communication problems such as lack of clarity of roles, lack of understanding of objectives, unclear on next steps etc.
- Seek early alignment/agreement on methodologies
When it comes to internal team disagreements, one common theme is alignment on methodologies, especially in technical projects in IT. A simple solution is to rule in a well-debated methodology path, and to rule out others once it is decided.
The good news – Agile hybrid approach is taking a near-unanimous lead in the most preferred method, as it combines both waterfall and iterative models, with sprints being the cornerstone.
- Showcase early successes
Early successes are a deterrent against cancellation, especially today with volatility arising out of the Covid 19 lockdowns. Reporting on early achievement of milestones and outcomes must be taken seriously by any IT project manager.
Noting early successes is not just good for the management team, but also for the morale of project team members. Success in experimental projects needs even more vigilantly noteworthiness.
- Set testing priorities
It is important to set clear expectations on which areas of the product need the highest levels of testing and quality control compared to the rest of the project.
For instance, security and privacy are always of paramount importance in every project. For an ecommerce website, customer transaction/payment gateways testing is critical whereas for a media website, content design and advertisement integration testing takes priority.