What Is IT Project Management?

What Is IT Project Management?

By Tobias Geisler Mesevage

IT project management is the oversight of IT projects and the implementation of IT services during initiatives like software development, hardware installations, network upgrades, and cloud computing and virtualization rollouts.

For example, if an organization purchases new equipment, or needs to make sweeping software upgrades, an IT project manager would take control of the process to ensure a timely, high-quality, and cost-effective solution for the organization.

How an IT project manager operates will depend on the project’s life cycle, scope, and expectations.

Three Project Management Life Cycles

A project manager will first assess what life cycle makes the most sense for a project. Most commonly, the following three options will be weighed:

  1. Predictive life cycle: An IT project manager will know the scope, deadline and cost upfront, which means the project manager must work toward meeting the pre-defined commitments of the project for a successful launch.
  2. Iterative life cycle: The activities of the project are repetitive, and at the end of each iteration, a deliverable or set of deliverables is produced. The repetitive nature of this life cycle allows the project team to reflect and learn after each iteration. And after a series of repeated cycles, the final project will be delivered.
  3. Adaptive life cycle: With this type of project, an IT project manager must be able to respond to high levels of change, as a project and team will evolve throughout the course of this life cycle.

Five Phases of Project Management

Regardless of the project’s life cycle, to ensure a successful project launch - from start to end - most IT project managers will follow a five-phase process.

1. Initiation

In this phase, alongside a stakeholder, a project manager will create a business case that defines a project’s proposed:

  • Objectives
  • Purpose
  • Deliverables
  • Stakeholders
  • Preliminary requirements

At this time, a project manager should also include a feasibility study to determine the practicality of the proposed project. All findings in this phase should make for a stronger next step: the planning phase.

2. Planning

To create a path toward a successful execution, IT project managers must plan for the following elements of a project:

  • Costs and the total budget for the project
  • Project scope
  • Duration
  • Deliverables and milestones
  • Quality control
  • Communication needs and plans
  • Metrics
  • Risks
  • Available resources

The planning phase creates the foundation for successful execution.

3. Execution

It’s finally time to put the project into motion during the execution phase. The primary goals for a project manager during this time are to ensure everyone knows what they are responsible for, that teammates are hitting deadlines, and projects are running smoothly. During execution, a project manager needs to perform:

  • Resource management
  • Work tracking
  • Host team meetings
  • Continually report on progress

By keeping a close eye on the project’s trajectory, an IT project manager can proactively pivot and adjust the original plan as needed.

4. Monitoring and controlling

To avoid scope creep, IT project managers should continue to use KPIs and other metrics defined in the project plan to show the progress of a project. Commonly, IT project managers will leverage tools from the Earned Value Management philosophy which:

  • Assigns budgets to specific tasks
  • Captures work progress against the end goal
  • Monitors and evaluates cost performance
  • Collects accurate, timely and actionable information to improve the project plan throughout the remainder of the project’s lifecycle
  • Summarizes information and data for managers to enable effective decision making

The approach is to understand where the project started, where it’s currently at, and what the next steps look like.

5. Closing

Once a project has been completed, it’s important to review the process and look for lessons learned to improve the success of upcoming and future projects. During this phase, it’s also valuable for IT project managers to recognize and celebrate success on an individual and team level.

9 Skillsets of an IT Project Manager

To be effective in their role, IT project managers must be equipped to handle the following arms of knowledge, in addition to having a background in IT:

  1. Scope management: Helps keep the team working on the project at-hand, without veering off-course, as changes to the plan can increase the demand for resources.
  2. Schedule and cost management: To make certain a project delivers on-time, IT project managers must manage the process of developing, maintaining and communicating schedules to protect time and resources.
  3. Quality management: Ensuring deliverables are up to the customer or stakeholder standards is vital to the IT project manager’s performance.
  4. Human resource management: IT project managers must be able to organize, manage, and lead the team throughout the project — from identifying roles and responsibilities to measuring output and improving team interactions.
  5. Communications management: A comprehensive communication plan should define who the audience is, what the point of communication should be, the types of messaging that should be leveraged, how communication will be delivered, and who is responsible for each communication.
  6. Risk management: It’s the responsibility of the IT project managers to identify, analyze and respond to any issues that can derail a project.
  7. Procurement management: If a project requires external relationships, like with vendors or suppliers, a project manager must form and foster the relationships to complete the project.
  8. Stakeholder management: IT project managers must identify the needs of key stakeholders, and develop a plan to work with stakeholders throughout the five phases of the project to meet expectations.
  9. Integration management: Above all, integration management ensures a project isn’t managed in silos. Rather all tasks, resources and project elements should be coordinated, and competing requests should be handled proactively.

By touching on each of these arms of project management, you can ensure a smooth deployment of your project.

The Bottom Line

IT project management improves the odds of a successful project completion with limited hiccups and focused scope. Without a dedicated project manager, a complex or difficult project would be more difficult to execute to its full potential.

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