Nobody ever said that project management in IT was a simple job. There’s always too much to do and never enough time. It just takes one small “miss” to bring the entire project to its knees. Plus, the constant dependency upon networks, hardware, software and a host of other complicated systems mean that problems that could occur on your project are just one power failure away from showing their ugly face.
If you have the privilege of working in IT project management, are there certain things you can do to make the most of this exciting and highly uncertain environment? Yes, definitely. Here are 10 tips.
1. Keep Your Eyes on the Big Picture
Yes, there are a million small things that can go wrong at any moment in time in IT projects. Resources can become sick, requirements are missed, incompatible technology is used, and systems can go down. And yes, these things will happen.You can count on something going wrong almost as soon as the project starts.
However, don’t let these minor setbacks distract you or derail you mentally from the outset. Keep your eyes focused on the end goal and what the project is supposed to accomplish. Doing this will allow you to overcome the minor things that go wrong, make the proper adjustments, and continue to drive everyone toward project completion.
2. Keep Your Eyes on the Details
This may sound contradictory to “keep your eyes on the big picture” but it’s not. Rather, it’s complementary to keeping your eyes on the overall project plan. When it comes to IT projects you need to work with both the big picture in conjunction with the details.
Think about it this way….when you drive you are paying attention to both the big pictures and the details. You’re looking through the windshield to keep your eyes on the road, watch for oncoming traffic, determine where you are by watching the road signs and determine where you are going.
However, you are also paying attention to the details when you look down at your dashboard. You know how fast you are going and adjust your speed accordingly. You monitor your gas situation and whether the car’s temperature and oil gauges are within the correct parameters. It’s the combination of the big picture and details that allows you to arrive safely at your destination.
3. Create Allies and Not Adversaries
Two things happen when you work with other departments in a company. You will either get along with them just fine, or, the relationship may deteriorate and become adversarial in nature. That is the last thing you want to happen.
Make it your mission to constantly look at everyone in the company as being on the same team and not opposing each other. This takes work, effort, and time on your part and may not always be reciprocated by the other person. However, you will find by having this attitude your project management job will be that much easier to accomplish.
4. Don’t Make Assumptions
I won’t even say the fact that we all know the expression about making assumptions…however, it’s true. You do not want to EVER make assumptions. You can’t assume that just because someone said a deliverable is complete…that it is. You want to take people at their word; however, people have different definitions of “complete”. If you take someone at their word that something is complete without following up you may be in for a rude surprise. A good rule of thumb to follow is “trust but verify”. It will help keep everyone out of harm’s way.
5. Always Ask “Why?”
Just because something has been done a certain way for years does not mean that it has to be done that way for years to come. It’s your job to always ask the question “why does it have to be done this way?”
You may find that the answer is “because we’ve always done it this way”. If you come across that answer then this is a prime opportunity to dig a bit deeper and see if there is a better way to accomplish the task. You’ll find that you can uncover so many areas for process improvement that you will begin to ask “why?” at as many opportunities as you can.
6. Be Extremely Clear and Precise
There’s already enough ambiguity and confusion in project management in IT that you don’t need to add more to the mix by being unclear in your direction. Take the time necessary to make sure your project team is 100% clear about what needs to be accomplished and that they have no questions. If you find yourself being vague or general about a task that is to be accomplished then you may find that you don’t understand it very well yourself. Go back to the drawing board to make sure you have a crystal clear grasp on what you are asking someone else to do; otherwise, you could cause someone to head down the wrong path.
7. Respect Other People
Some project managers may have a tendency to look down on their resources or just treat them like commodities that just need to do what they say. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in this way of thinking. Always view your team members as subject matter experts in the areas they are working in just like you are an expert in project management. People know when you don’t respect them because you talk down to them, come across as condescending, or even dismissive. Stay away from these traits and you will get exponentially better performance out of your team.
8. Manage AND Lead People
You wear many hats if you are an IT project manager. Two of the biggest hats you wear are that of being a manager and a leader. Many times you’ll find that you have to fill both roles concurrently. This will allow you to see the big picture as well as pay attention to the details that was discussed earlier.
You need to motivate your team enough that they can see the goal line, but then you also have to provide them enough management direction that they know exactly how they will reach the goal. Keep them inspired and driven at the same time.
9. Catch People Doing Things Right
Do you like how one of your team members just performed or how they completed a task? Do you want them to do the same thing again? Then call it to their attention. A great way of predicting future performance is telling somebody what a great job they just did. This will also make it easier to tell them what they need to work on if they are not performing to your expectations. They’ll know your motive is not to be out to get them but rather to help them improve themselves.
10. Watch Your Attitude
Have you been around the person that is overwhelmingly negative? When someone asks them if they can help do something they say they can’t. When someone asks them if something is possible they say it isn’t. When someone asks them to change their disposition they say they won’t. That type of person will bring anyone down in just a matter of days. There’s no room for this type of attitude when you are dealing with project management in IT. You need to become a “can do” person that will at the very least look into the possibilities of what can be done to make something work.
What type of project manager are you? The more of the traits you have above the better you will be able to navigate and overcome the complexities that surface when you manage IT projects.
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