Project management requires a set of broadly applicable skills and tools, regardless of your field or discipline. The things that make a project manager effective won’t vary too much from industry to industry, but every space has its own idiosyncrasies.
IT project management can sometimes seem like its own beast entirely. Because IT requires heavily specialized skills and knowledge, and is often the foundation of much of your other work, project management in the IT field can be exceptionally intimidating. Compared to something concrete like construction, technology and code is always changing and can feel difficult to master. By following these tips and tactics, however, you can position yourself to successfully manage any IT project.
1. Know your project methodology
Your project management method may have a name, and you don’t even know it. Four words you may commonly hear when discussing the most popular types of project management methods are Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, and Kanban.
Waterfall is the most traditional type of project management, focused on rigid timetables and deliverables. It’s disciplined and well-documented, but incorporates change poorly.
Agile projects are rapid and iterative. They deliver working versions of products early on, and continuously improve. However, documentation may be neglected, and a lack of disciplined end goals may result in a different result than you originally envisioned.
Scrum methodology is a subset of Agile focused on planned-length development “sprints,” followed by review and a revision of planning as necessary. A Scrum project deals with change exceptionally well, but runs the risk of feature creep and can have ill-defined timelines and budgets.
Kanban comes from a Japanese word meaning “visual sign” or “card,” because it’s generally represented by sticky notes on a board. It’s a visual representation of a project, and works well when incorporating an Agile workflow. Kanban is flexible and easy to understand, but can be overly complicated if a team isn’t disciplined. It also lacks the timeline visualization of a Gantt chart.
Make sure your project is using a workflow method that fits not only the project, but also your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get stuck in “this is how we’ve always done it” mode.
2. Set an effective project timetable
Remember that every project, no matter the industry, follows the five key phases of project management:
What this looks like can depend on your chosen methodology. A Scrum project, for instance, might have a single Phase 1, and then repeated cycles of Phases 2, 3, and 4 until finally reaching Phase 5.
Remember that workflows like Scrum and Kanban may lack traditional timetables; there’s no guarantee how many iterations a project might need until it reaches deliverable status. Make sure this is clearly communicated to decision-makers and stakeholders so you’re all on the same page ahead of time.
As project manager, your job is to ensure that all cross-departmental coordination is ready before you need it. Don’t ask your artists and designers to enter a project that’s halfway finished and expect them to immediately get up to speed, for instance. Keep them looped in from the beginning.
3. Don’t micromanage your developers
Micromanagement can be effective at times. Coding isn’t one of them. Even if your personal background is in coding, your job right now is to be a commander. Focus on the big picture and how your project interacts with other departments, not whether your developer should use a different line of code in this routine. You hired your employees for a reason. Trust them.
This doesn’t mean you should just let your developers do their own thing, of course. Code is tricky on the best of days, and integrating it from different developers can be a project on its own. Make sure to set requirements and tasks clearly from the beginning to minimize your headaches when it comes time to compile and run the program.
Similarly, make sure your check-in meetings aren’t too frequent. When you have meetings, make sure they’re necessary and constructive to your end goals. You’ll find plenty of other tips for IT project management online, as well as a bevy of useful IT project management tools. Collaborative work management platforms like Smartsheet can solve many of your process and project management issues by making it easier to collaborate and share information with your workers and stakeholders.