Managing IT projects poses various challenges. The complexity of projects, changing requirements, quality, and deadline constraints combine to make this task particularly daunting. This article explores these challenges and presents practical solutions to overcome them.
The Complexity of Managing IT Projects
IT projects tend to be highly complex for several reasons. They involve rapidly changing technologies that project managers need to stay on top of, and the scope can change frequently due to shifting business needs.
This complexity means IT project managers must be adept at setting expectations, communicating with stakeholders, and developing new methodologies.
Managing Changing Requirements
Handling requirements is the number-one challenge for IT project managers. Studies show over half of software features are seldom or never used. This “requirements creep” lengthens schedules and inflates budgets.
Managers should institute change control processes even on waterfall projects with business sponsor oversight on proposed alterations. This prevents scope from endlessly expanding without regard for time or cost.
Balancing Quality and Deadline
Managing IT projects involves tradeoff decisions between key parameters like cost, schedule, features, and quality. Sometimes, managers prioritize hitting a predetermined go-live date over providing all intended functionalities or running final quality assurance testing.
The risks here are substantial. Studies indicate that software defects cost 30 times more to fix post-implementation than in development. Rushing can lead to solutions that only partially meet user needs and require extensive rework.
A better practice is determining the minimum viable product that solves a core business problem and generates ROI. Managers should also budget adequate time for user acceptance and performance testing to catch bugs pre-launch rather than in production. While sometimes challenging, pushing back on unreasonable schedules can avoid project failure.
Mitigating Communication Barriers
When managing IT projects, diverse teams like application developers, database engineers, and end users must all communicate. These groups can speak different languages, leading to communication breakdowns that negatively impact delivery.
Managers can bridge the gaps in several ways:
- Scheduling regular cross-functional project meetings rather than siloed ones
- Using collaboration platforms so teams can jointly edit/review the same documents
- Performing demos of work to facilitate discussions vs. just exchanging status reports
- Providing communication skills coaching/training as needed
Tools for Effective Communication
Collaboration platforms, instant messaging, video conferencing, and project portals enable information sharing unconstrained by geographic barriers. However, tools only facilitate communication—they don’t replace the need for thoughtful content geared to audience needs.
Managers should still distribute messages regarding priorities, upcoming milestones, policy changes, and more rather than just passing raw meeting notes or status reports. Publishing these messages across multiple mediums ensures full visibility.
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Managing IT Project Risks
Managing risks is critical to the success of any IT project. Project managers must proactively identify, analyze, and prepare contingency plans to address potential dangers across scope, budget, schedule, resources, and external dependencies.
Identifying and Prioritizing Project Risks
Some best practices for identifying IT project risks include:
- Conducting risk assessment workshops with stakeholders during project planning and at major milestones
- Using standardized frameworks like risk breakdown structures (RBS) to consider risk categories systematically
- Reviewing lessons learned from similar past projects to uncover recurrent risk factors
- Soliciting input from experts across business, IT, and vendors to get diverse risk perspectives
Once risks are identified, they must be analyzed for probability and impact to determine priority. Qualitative ratings or data-driven quantitative assessments can be used. The biggest and most likely risks should become the focus of mitigation strategies based on risk tolerance thresholds.
Strategies for Controlling Risks
Standard risk mitigation strategies include:
- Avoidance: Eliminating the cause or conditions posing a risk, such as changing project scope or approach
- Control: Instituting policies and oversight to minimize the likelihood of the risk
- Acceptance: Acknowledging the risk and putting monitoring processes in place
- Transference: Transferring the financial impact to a third party through insurance or contracts
- Contingency planning: Defining and readying backup plans to execute should the risk occur
Project managers also need to track risks, monitor early warning signs, reassess probabilities and impacts, and implement contingency plans as needed throughout the project life cycle. This can improve cybersecurity post-completion as well.
Training and Development
With rapid advancements in the IT industry, existing skills become obsolete quickly, leading to talent gaps. Some practical ways to ensure skills uplift are:
- Conducting regular skills assessments to uncover gaps
- Defining clear project timelines and skills training to track progress
- Using different training approaches, including classroom, online, on-the-job apprenticeships, etc.
- Factoring in training needs in resource planning and project goals and budgets
- Incentivizing continuous learning through learning accounts, certifications, merit-based career growth, etc.
Upskilling IT teams to use integral project management tools and strategies can drive project efficiency and talent growth.
Choosing a Provider for Your Managed IT Projects
When you choose a partner for your next big IT project, consider:
- Technology specialization: Find a provider with the required resources and skills.
- Availability for projects: Experts may be unavailable for popular services.
- Communication of plans: Unexpected budget additions or delays can affect your experience, so make sure the company is forthcoming about its processes.
- Adequate expertise: Ask for certifications, as they will be a good indication of a reliable partner.
Balancing priority projects, optimizing resources, and developing proactive skills are imperative for IT project execution. If you choose to hire a partner, do your research on their capabilities and ask plenty of questions.
Choose NIC for Your Managed IT Projects
Don’t let the challenges of finding the right IT partner get you down. Let NIC handle your technology projects. Our options for managed IT and security give you the comfort of knowing your data and network are secure. Don’t wait, contact NIC today.