IT Project Management Best Practices
By Claudia Vandermilt
When it comes to successful IT project management, having a thorough understanding of best practices in the field is essential. IT projects are notoriously difficult to keep on schedule and on budget. In fact, the CHAOS Summary 2009 report issued by The Standish Group found that less than one-third of IT projects were considered successful.* If you are responsible for coordinating IT projects, you will need to make the best use of all of the tools at your disposal. IT project management best practices can put your projects on the path to success.
Best Practices in IT Project Management
IT project management best practices can be divided into three general categories: organizational, team and individual. These designations specify at what level the process will benefit the company, and can help keep each aspect of the project framed in the proper context.
- Organizational Best Practices
Initiatives relating to continuous improvement, scalability of practices, knowledge management, and corporate policies and governance fall under the category of organizational best practices. These all impact a company directly at the corporate level, and so they need to be interpreted and evaluated within that context. Failure to do so will result in an IT project management plan that does not mesh with the existing corporate framework, leading to potential complications later on.
There are many ways in which a project leader can implement these IT project management best practices. For example, in terms of scalability, the size of a project must be taken into consideration. A large project will generally require more resources than a small one; if support is not adjusted accordingly, the project manager will be challenged with trying to do too much with too little. Likewise, if the numbers are not scaled down from a large project to a small one, the overhead may be unnecessarily high.
Another important aspect of IT project management is knowledge management. The project manager must make certain the entire team is aware of pitfalls and problems encountered on previous projects, so they can be addressed and avoided in new projects. It’s important to keep a centralized body of knowledge that all team members can access and contribute to, so that knowledge isn’t lost if a key member leaves the organization.
Team Best Practices
At the team level, IT project management best practices include clearly defining and communicating the focus and goals of the project, recognizing what each individual brings to the team, and properly planning and documenting all processes. The project manager is responsible for asking the right questions at the outset in order to establish the scope, budget and timeline. The entire team must understand these guidelines and their deliverables, and they should be prepared to speak out if they become aware of any factors that will impact the schedule, cost or scope of the project. That’s why open and ongoing communication is such a critical aspect of IT project management. To ensure a smooth process, the IT project manager must also set up a framework for evaluating and controlling risk factors throughout the course of the project, and maintain a detailed record of progress, problems, resolutions and accomplishments.
Individual Best Practices
While it is essential to implement IT project management best practices at every level, it can be argued that they are most important at the individual level. That’s because each individual contributor must commit to following best practices in order for the team and organizational aspects of IT project management to be truly effective. For example, individuals must communicate and share their knowledge with the entire team; otherwise, the related team and organizational goals will not be met.
An individual best practice that can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of IT project management is accountability. All team members must understand their responsibilities and deliverables, and how their individual contributions will impact the success of the project. When participants hold themselves and each other accountable, it can keep everything else flowing smoothly.
Another example of an individual best practice that can be implemented to greatly benefit IT project management is recognition. Team members will be able to function much more effectively as part of a group if they understand the strengths each person brings to the team. It’s also important for project managers to recognize individual contributions and team milestones as a way to motivate participants and keep them engaged, energized and committed to the project’s success.
Claudia Vandermilt is a skilled project manager with experience in internet marketing, travel, consumer goods and home necessities. She’s earned certificates in Applied Project Management and Advanced Certificate in Applied PM from Villanova and continues furthering her education and experience in project management across industries.