IT project management: A guide for managers and their teams

Team Asana contributor imageTeam AsanaAugust 11th, 20218 min read
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Summary

IT project management is the process of managing, planning, and developing information technology projects. Project managers can use IT project management software to move through the five phases of the project management life cycle and accomplish complex tasks more effectively.

IT project managers are adaptable and resourceful leaders. Carrying complex projects over the finish line isn’t an easy task, but the right leader does it time and time again. 

As an IT project manager, you create user-friendly and flexible technology for consumers while also tracking the progress of your team members. How do you do it all, we wonder? We’re guessing your secret is IT project management software

Having the right IT management software can be the key to project success. This guide outlines what IT project management is and provides tips for managing IT projects.  

What is IT project management?

IT project management is the process of managing, planning, and developing information technology projects. IT projects exist within a variety of industries, including software, information security, information systems, communications, hardware, network, databases, and mobile apps.

IT project developers deliver a product or service, while managers handle IT project management. Managers are in charge of communicating expectations and keeping projects on track and on budget, to ensure the IT projects run smoothly.

Phases of IT project management

As an IT project manager, you can accomplish complex tasks more effectively when considering the five phases of IT project management. These phases represent the project life cycle in various job fields.

Phases of IT project management

Initiation

During the initiation phase, determine the need for the project and create a project proposal. The project must also be viable for the team and the company at large. During this phase, make sure to also confirm the project is worth the allotted time and resources before moving forward.

Read: How to create a project plan that works to keep you on track

Planning

The planning phase is a collaborative effort between you as the IT project manager and your team. Planning for the project involves setting budgets, identifying risks, and creating clear goals for what you hope to accomplish. A roadmap template can help you plan goals that you can then refer to throughout the project life cycle. 

Execution

The execution phase is when the team sets deliverables for the project. IT project managers play a crucial role by delegating tasks and keeping communication open among all team members. Use team collaboration software to ensure everyone is on the same page about who’s doing what by when. You may need to revisit the project plan during execution, as projects often experience changes during development. 

Monitor and control

During the execution phase, use IT project management software to track your team’s progress in real time. This involves monitoring the time, cost, scope, quality, and risk of the project itself. Using your project roadmap, you can evaluate whether the project is on track with your project proposal and goals, or course correct if necessary. 

Closure

Once the project is complete, the closure phase begins. In this phase, ensure all work is completed, approved, and has moved on to the appropriate team. It’s also important to take some time to review any lessons learned during the project and determine what went well and what didn’t. The closure phase is crucial because it empowers your team to review and improve future methodology. 

Read: 5 project management phases to improve your team’s workflow

What does an IT project manager do?

As an IT project manager, you must know how to communicate with everyone in your organization. You’ll be working closely with members of the IT department but you may also be in charge of discussing your team’s work with other departments.

Ensure the product functions

The goal of every IT project is to deliver a functional product that meets the customer’s needs. IT project managers are the first point of contact if things go wrong with a project, which is why you must prioritize functionality above all else. 

Assign tasks to team members

A project manager is a team’s go-to person when determining what their roles and responsibilities are for the project. As an IT project manager, take some time to understand each team member’s strengths so you can assign tasks accordingly.

Track progress and performance

Once each project begins, project management professionals must track team performance, the project timeline, the budget, and how well the project is meeting its goals. IT project managers can use project management software to keep track of all of the moving parts and assist with professional development.

Lead Agile meetings with stakeholders

A stakeholder is someone who is influenced by the outcome of the project. This could be senior management, a customer, or a product tester. As IT project manager, you’ll need to communicate with stakeholders and give them frequent status reports on the project. You can do this using IT project management software.

Read: Everything you need to know to become a project manager

Challenges faced by IT project managers

You’ll face a fair number of challenges in your role as IT project manager, but with the right management tools, you can feel confident in your ability to address issues quickly. 

Challenges faced by IT project managers

Time and budgeting

Time and budgeting are some of the biggest challenges you may face in IT project management. Without realistic deadlines for a project, you risk delivering a product or service that is of lower quality than it could be. 

Not having the resources to complete the project can also make teams and customers suffer. You can reduce time and budgeting challenges by prioritizing these items in the planning phase. 

Scenario: Senior management would like your team to perform a company-wide software migration within one month, but you’ll need an additional month because your team is too small and inexperienced to complete the migration in the allotted time frame.

Solution: Use IT project management software to keep senior management informed about your team’s availability and experience. That way, management can prepare a more realistic timeline when assigning IT projects.

Scope creep

Scope creep occurs when the original goals of the project become overshadowed because stakeholders continue adding new requirements and deliverables. Scope creep can be a stressful part of IT project management because it derails the project and requires constant maneuvering. 

To reduce the frequency of scope creep, set strong project objectives from the beginning, have a change control process in place, and do your best to communicate with stakeholders every step of the way. 

Scenario: Your initial project goal was to improve outdoor Wi-Fi at your company’s headquarters so employees and visitors can work from anywhere. During project execution, stakeholders ask you to expand the outdoor Wi-Fi reach to the operations center across the street and also allow download capabilities. 

Solution: IT project management can give you clear project objectives at the start, so your stakeholders will know what can be accomplished during this project. For example, they would understand that requesting an extension of the outdoor Wi-Fi reach is reasonable, while requesting download capabilities is too extensive.

Miscommunication

Because IT project managers function as the go-between among team members, departments, and stakeholders, miscommunication can become a challenge if there isn’t an organized process in place to keep everyone informed. You can prioritize communication using IT project management tools and this can lead your team to success. 

Scenario: Your company agrees to work with a local school and improve their learning spaces with increased access to technology. The project involves installing Wi-Fi and donating 100 computers to the school, but your senior manager thought you were only donating 10 computers.

Solution: Prioritizing communication at the beginning of a project is essential for avoiding conflict. Sharing frequent project status updates with IT management tools can ensure everyone is on the same page through the project life cycle. 

Read: 12 tips to effective communication in the workplace

Risk management

Managing the risks of an information technology project is a necessary step in the initiation phase. During this phase, you must come up with alternate plans should your initial goals fall short. If you don’t manage risk on the front end, you’ll have a hard time picking up the slack when things go awry in real time. 

Scenario: Your team creates an online scheduling portal for patients at a hospital. You predict everything will run smoothly, so you’re shocked when a bug in the program causes cardiac patients to see gynecologists and neuro patients to see urologists.

Solution: With proper risk management, you may have caught the bug in the program that led to a huge inconvenience for patients and doctors. Risk analysis is an essential part of IT project management that you can’t overlook. Try using a risk register to begin identifying risks. 

Changing technology

Complex IT projects can take months or years to complete. One challenge in IT project management involves keeping up with transforming technology as a project takes place. The project scope of your initial IT project must be flexible in case the needs of your customer change while your project is in development. 

Scenario: Your team takes on a long-term project to improve the GPS systems in cars. While working on this project, GPS phone apps come out allowing drivers to see traffic in real time. Your GPS system doesn’t include traffic, and including this feature would considerably extend your project length. 

Solution: Changing technology can’t be stopped, so your IT project must be flexible. In this example, your team would need to decide whether pivoting the project is a good business strategy to compete with advanced GPS phone technology.

Try work management software

Types of IT project management tools

IT project management tools can keep your project team organized and informed from project initiation to closure. These tools help visualize each team member’s role in the project and show the project’s progress in real time.

Types of IT project management tools

RACI chart

RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. Using the RACI chart, you can clarify the roles and responsibilities of your team members when working through projects.

For each task or deliverable, designate which team members or stakeholders are Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, or Informed. These charts can be useful in all types of IT projects, as there’s always a need for clarification among team member responsibilities.  

Gantt chart

A Gantt chart—named after Henry Gantt—is a horizontal chart used to illustrate a project timeline. Each bar on the chart represents tasks in the project, and the length of each bar represents time. 

Gantt charts help teams visualize what work needs to get done and how tasks affect one another, like a waterfall. If your project involves many tasks that rely on one another, then this is a great tool because your team members can see how tasks overlap based on deadlines. 

Kanban boards

Kanban boards show the work breakdown structure of what stage each task is in. Using Kanban boards in IT project management can help your team balance their work responsibilities and see other team members’ available capacity.

  • Kanban boards work well when your project requires tasks with small, incremental changes. These task boards allow teams to break down tasks into checklists and progress stages. 

Example of an information technology project

An information technology team is developing a new iPhone application to help employees clock in at work. When putting together the project proposal for the iPhone app, the IT project manager consults with the app creator while also considering the needs of the end-user. 

In this IT project example, we’ll use the five phases of project management to bring the iPhone app through development.

The first step in IT project management is to ask questions about the subject matter of this app idea in the initiation phase. These questions include:

  • Are companies having issues keeping track of employee time? 

  • Are employees having issues clocking in when working remotely?

  • Can this iPhone app provide a solution for employees and employers? 

  • Is creating this app viable for my team given the designated time and budget?

After moving forward with the project, you begin the planning phase when developing the iPhone app.

  • Determine the budget it will take to make the app. 

  • Assess who on your team can handle the coding of the app. 

  • Consider other team members and the roles they may play in development.

The most important part of planning your iPhone app is to identify your overall project objectives. For example, in this case, your project objective is:

“The goal of this time-tracking application is to provide an easily accessible way for employees to clock their work hours and to help employers keep track of their team’s productivity.”

Once the iPhone app is in the execution phase, use IT project management tools to monitor your team’s progress, which brings you through the performance phase. With effective project management software, you can look back at the data during the closure phase

Read: How to write an effective project objective, with examples

Streamline projects with IT project management software

Project portfolio management software (PPM) can help you track IT projects from strategy to execution. Looking for a way to prepare for your role as an IT manager? Asana’s got you covered. Get Gantt chart-like views, tools for managing team responsibilities, stakeholder sharing options, and real-time project updates to help you hit your project deliverables on time.

For additional resources to help you manage your IT projects, check out these 11 project templates to start your work on the right track.

Try portfolio management with Asana

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