What is IT Project Management?
IT project management is the controlling of processes and activities that are related to IT projects. An IT project is any that deals with IT infrastructure, information systems or computers. That is a large swath of work that can include the following (and more):
- Web development
- Database management
- Mobile app development
- Data mining
- Cloud computing
- Network configuration
- Software implementation
- Hardware installation
- Network and computer security
- It emergency recovery
But at it’s core, IT project management is the planning, scheduling, execution, tracking and monitoring, and reporting for any IT project. That, you may notice, is basically the template for any project. But IT is unique in that it bleeds across many if not all industries. For example, a manufacturing, healthcare or educational organization will all have an IT component.
Unique Challenges of IT Project Management
IT project management deals with a variety of issues. It ends up interfacing with many other aspects of an organization, such as business administration, human resources, finance and other departments within the organization and entities that are outside of the business. This presents a number of pressing problems with high stakes, for if the technology goes down, then an entire business can become paralyzed.
There’s the challenge that IT is a volatile industry, with a rate of change that can be dizzying. Technology is notorious for becoming obsolete once it rolls off the assembly line, so IT project management must be prepared for this inevitable change.
Another hurdle that IT project management has to clear is communication between teams. This is a problem with all projects, frankly, but with IT there are often distributed teams who work remotely, often in different time zones, which only aggravates the situation. Having clear and effective communication channels is key for success on any IT project.
Transparency is important, too, as the focus in IT is sharp. Having transparency across the project, with clear deadlines, helps teams better incorporate new technology or respond to change quickly and effectively.
Lack of Agreement on Methodology
But one of the biggest issues is that many organizations aren’t applying IT project management to their projects, which is like sailing a ship without a rudder. Without a process or methodology, whatever that might be, projects go off-track and over budget. Having an IT project manager who defines process, roles and tools is the first step to the success of an IT project.
IT Project Management Methodologies
There seem to be as many project management methodologies are there are projects. They break down into two larger camps, though: traditional and nontraditional methods. Let’s start with the traditional waterfall method, which breaks down the tasks in a project into a line of sequential project phases, and each of these phases depends on the delivery of the one before it.
Waterfall is the go-to methodology for most IT projects. While it is a project management method found in large projects outside of IT, it also lends itself to IT projects and has been proven a successful approach for formal and linear projects.
Waterfall has been around since it was codified in a paper published in 1970 by Dr. Winston W. Royce. The waterfall model has six stages:
- Requirements: First, the requirements are identified, analyzed and written up in a requirements document, defining what is being done and how it is to be done. This will be reviewed by stakeholders.
- Design: The next step is to document what was decided in the first stage in a design document, which notes everything needed to complete the project.
- Implementation: The IT project manager and team execute the design document, sticking to specifications, procedures and timelines.
- Testing: This is when deliverables from the project are measured against the standards set in the design document and stakeholders, like a quality check. If not met, then the process starts again.
- Installation: If the tests are passed, then the project is ready for release to the end-user. The product should be fully operational at this point.
- Maintenance: Most IT projects don’t end with delivery: they often require support after installation, whether updates or upgrades, though often this is tasked to a separate team.
Software development has introduced an agile framework to projects, a more iterative approach that works in short sprints and open to pivoting throughout the project, rather than being rigidly aligned with the plan. Some IT teams have incorporated agile or some of its implementations into their own projects.
More popular than agile with IT teams is hybrid methodology, which combines waterfall and agile, creating a more flexible and yet structured approach that can lend itself to IT projects. This “best of both worlds” approach it can be the right path forward depending on the parameters of the project.
ProjectManager.com is the ideal IT project management software for waterfall or hybrid methodologies. It features online Gantt charts for waterfall enthusiasts and kanban boards for agile lovers. Plus, the real-time dashboard keeps the IT project manager updated on progress through metrics that can be filtered to show the data you want and then shared.
Less used in IT projects, but worth mentioning, is the critical path method and critical chain project management. The critical path method categorizes the tasks that must be completed to fulfill the project objective. This is done with a work breakdown structure, which is then mapped across a project duration or Gantt chart, with task dependencies linked to avoid blocking teams. This helps to know which tasks need to be done when.
The critical chain project management works backwards, recognizing deliverables and using past experience to map the tasks needed to complete the project. This is a very efficient way to use resources, while staying focused on the end-goal. However, delays can be common, and it’s not suited to work on a portfolio of projects.
IT Project Management Tools
The right IT project management tools will overcome the challenges of IT projects and give project managers better control and teams the features they need to collaborate and be more productive. Fortunately, ProjectManager.com is a project management software designed with IT project management in mind.
Gantt Charts for Waterfall Plans
The feature that fits with IT project management like a hand in a glove is ProjectManager.com’s online Gantt charts. Most of the methodologies above work on the timeline of a Gantt chart, and ours will allows you to link tasks that are dependent and even assign.
Teams love our online Gantt chart, especially IT teams that tend to work collaboratively and with autonomy. That’s because they can comment at the task level. Tasks can also have documents attached or images to add supporting materials and even sign-off once they’re completed.
Dashboards for Live Reporting
Because ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software, status updates are instantly reflected throughout the program. That means your real-time dashboard is giving you project details as they happen.
The various metrics measuring cost, workload, time and more, can be filtered to show just the amount of data you need. Then these easy-to-read colorful graphs and charts can be shared to teams and stakeholders or printed out for presentations.
Roles in IT Project Management
Roles and responsibilities in IT project management mostly mirror those projects in other disciplines. There are stakeholders, who are those who have an interest in the project; teams, who are those with skills to execute the project plan; and the IT project manager, who is the person that is responsible for the planning, procurement and execution of the project.
Types of IT Teams
Where roles differ from more traditional projects is in the teams themselves. While more project management is executed by teams, whether remote or on site, they are largely part of the overall organization that is implementing the project. However, with IT project management there are three types of teams.
- First, there is the traditional project management team that is tasked with an IT project. These teams are not exclusive to IT and are led and staffed with a formal project management methodology.
- Second, there are professional services teams, who deliver technology to external customers. This is usually done with the implementation of software or installation of hardware. They are often led by a project manager, but can be headed by a services vice-president or director. However, they also use formal types of project management.
- Thirdly, there are internal IT teams. These are the teams that manage the delivery and maintenance of the technology in an organization. They roll out new systems, set up computers, monitors, phones and other devices for employees and manage the systems. They can be led by a project manager, though that person is usually defined within the company as a director or vice-president of IT.
The IT Project Manager
The IT project manager, due to the breadth of IT project management, has a wider range of responsibilities than most other project managers. They are not only dealing with leadership, resource allocation, scheduling and planning, monitoring and reporting, but must know about technology beyond the tools that they use to manage projects.
IT project managers are responsible for understanding firmware and being able to implement software integrations. They often build websites and databases, and manage these technologies as well. This includes building networks and maintaining security for data risks.
However, the basic structure of the IT project manager’s job remains being a clear communicator, setting realistic goals and applying the right methodology to achieve them. They must motivate and inform both teams and stakeholders, manage change and set the project schedule. The triple constraint of any project is still present. Therefore, the IT project manager, like any project manager, is concerned with setting deadlines and keeping to a budget. This is all managed through methodology.
IT Project Manager Job Description
An IT project manager can make a salary that ranges from $55,000 to $125,000, depending on industry and region. The more senior the position, however, the more compensated the person will be.
Responsibilities of an IT project manager are similar to any project manager, in that they lead the planning, execution and monitoring and reporting of the project. They are responsible for making sure resources are managed and the project comes in successfully, meaning on time, within budget and of the expected quality. They also report to upper management, stakeholders, clients, etc., while managing the IT staff.
The IT project manager is also responsible for staying updated on the latest technology and changes to the organization’s technology, through research and studying similar organizations and their IT structure. They make sure that the technology complements the organization’s overall goals, strategies and practices.
They also work to preserve the IT assets by implementing disaster recovery and back-up procedures, including any IT security and control structures. The IT project manager is responsible for the quality of all IT projects.
Skills and Qualifications
Some of the skills and qualifications of an IT project manager include:
- Technical management
- An understanding of technology
- An ability to stay on top of the ever-changing field
- Ability to analyze data
- Data center management
- Strategic planning
- Quality management
Is IT Project Management Certification Necessary?
One way to stay up-to-date on all the skills and qualifications required of an IT project manager is certification. Certification is done by an outside agency that notes a standard of excellence, understanding of the discipline and experience.
Most IT project managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in business management or a more specific area, such as marketing, engineering or computer science. To further differentiate yourself, there are certifications, but they’re mostly general project manager certifications.
Types of Certifications
The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers a couple of industry-recognized project manager certifications, such as the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and the Project Management Professional (PMP). PMI also offers a PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA), Program Management Professional (PgMP) and Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP).
More technical certifications are The Open Group’s TOGAF 9 and OPEN CA certifications, as well as the IASA’s Certified IT Architech – Professional (CITA-P). These enterprise architect certifications merge a knowledge of technology with business goals.
IT governance certifications is offered by ITIL and ISACA, which have Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT) and Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC).
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