IT project management is the process of controlling and managing activities related to IT projects. Organizations need IT projects to help them with data management, logistics, and technology. It has become an essential part of today’s business. Organizations are looking for a way to be tech-centric, to increase their online presence and manage their business online with customers.
IT project is all about fulfilling specific Information Technology goals, and this is where IT project management comes in. Some examples of IT projects include Cloud computing, Hardware installation (servers, desktop computers), Web, and mobile app development.
To implement an IT project, there are five main steps involved:
- Project initiation
- Project planning
- Project execution
- Project monitoring and controlling
- Project closure
To know more about these steps, please read this article: 5 critical phases of project management
IT project management methodologies:
A project management methodology consists of different principles and processes involved in managing a project. The type of methodology you choose depends on the type of project, team and scope. In this post, we will discover 3 popular methodologies used in IT projects.
This is the most common methodology used in IT projects. Waterfall methodology is used for large projects and can be done in linear or formal approach. Also, it is proven that waterfall has 49% success rate when it comes to IT projects. This methodology is perfect for simple projects with clear and fixed requirements. According to a paper published by Dr. Winston W. Royce in 1970, Waterfall has 6 steps involved:
- Requirements:This is involves identifying core technical problem involved in the organization. Once identified, a detailed written document providing problem solving solutions should be realized. This will help stakeholders to decide on committing to the IT project.
- Design:After getting the green signal from stakeholders, start creating a design document. It should include all the necessary technical resources such as servers, programmers, data managers, IT project managers and the task they are required to complete.
- Implementation:Now the IT project managers and rest of the team should focus on executing the design plan. Respect the specific procedures and deadlines involved in the plan. The implementation can be something like, creation of software that connects that the organization and clients under one roof, data management, etc…,
- Testing:After completing the IT project, start testing them for a quality check. Observe whether the output meets the standards set in design plan. It is very important to check your project in different scenarios to meet the goals expected by stakeholders.
- Installation:If the tests are successful, then proceed with releasing the project to the end user. At this stage the product should be fully workable.
- Maintenance:Unlike regular projects, IT projects don’t have a completion after delivery. As technology improves, you should be able to provide the latest upgrades in the project and assign a separate team for maintenance in future.
This methodology is commonly used for software development projects. It is more of an iterative approach to complete the tasks in short steps. This method is extremely adaptable over time, as it allows you to have the flexibility and rapid change throughout the project. Also, Agile has a 64% success rate when it comes to IT projects. This method is ideal when the project doesn’t have a fixed end date or the need for quick changes in the plan. Communication and collaboration are an essential factor in this agile methodology.
To overcome the difficulty entrenched in the waterfall methodology, a group of 17 software developers and programmers created the agile manifesto. There are four values and 12 principles to follow while using agile project methodology.
4 Core values of agile are:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools:
Over the course of IT projects, valuing people and project teams is more important than the processes (agile, waterfall) or tools (Stafiz). It is the people who fulfill the business needs and lead to the development process. Project management tools and processes are nothing without human touch in a business and less likely to meet customer needs. If the clients and the project team understand each other, then the project team can solve any issues related to tools and processes in the project.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation:
A lot of time is spent in documenting technical requirements, technical specifications, testing, plans, and approvals. This creates project development delays and providing unwanted information to developers. According to the agile manifesto, documentation is required, but it values the working software more. It means that a working product is a better indicator of alignment to the customer requirements and expectations rather than a document created months back.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation:
To make the project easier, engage with the customer, and collaborate with them often in the development process. In the end, customers are the one who is going to use the final product, and they are your powerful asset to meet the project needs effectively. Negotiations are important to finalize project details and contracts. In the agile manifesto, there is possibility of renegotiation in the contract as agile values customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change in the following plan:
Change in plan is not an expense, rather consider it as an improvement in value creation of the project. Agile methodology is more flexible to allow changes in the project at any given time.
12 Principles of agile methodology:
- The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Businesspeople and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.
Another popular method among IT teams is the hybrid methodology. It is the combination of waterfall and agile methodology to create a more flexible and structured approach to IT projects. In hybrid methodology, the planning is done using the waterfall methodology. Execution and delivery are achieved using agile methodology. Hybrid takes the best of both methods to create a even better model according to its fans.
Hybrid is compatible with any industry and has no restriction over team size. In this methodology, the responsibilities need to be defined clearly and blended at the beginning of the project. This method is best suited when the project doesn’t fit agile or waterfall methodologies. Hybrid method is suitable for medium-sized projects with high complexity and fixed budgets. It helps with the project experimentation and requires collaboration at the planning stage.
Importance of IT project manager:
The responsibilities of an IT manager are somewhat close to any project manager. Apart from planning, leading, executing, monitoring, and controlling the project, they need to dedicate time to manage the IT team.
An IT manager is also responsible for bringing the best and most adapted technology to the organization. Always stay up-to-date with recent technology trends that may improve the company operations or productivity. Technologies that will align with the strategies and goals of the firm. Another important responsibility the IT manager has is to handle critical personal data of clients and organizations. As the data is mostly kept in the cloud nowadays, she has to prevent hacks or data breaches. Back-ups and recovery procedures should be prepared to prevent any disaster to happen.
A case study of a well managed IT project :
A Fortune 100 US-based company that provides insurance and services to clients in North America.
The company handles hundreds of billion-dollar projects, but they wanted to decrease the time to reach their audience due to high competition from other competitors. The main goals were to reduce the duration of the project by 50% and increase customer satisfaction by 25% in three years. The insurance company had a very rigid project management structure with a traditional deliverable schedule.
The company used agile product development techniques to complete its projects in a shorter duration with an iterative approach. Due to the new agile practices and methods, the company was able to provide services to its users earlier than before with the old traditional approach.
After 18 months of rigorous training and coaching,
- Project duration was reduced by 20%, leading to $5 million in net savings
- Improved customer satisfaction to 30%, exceeding the 25% goal set initially.
- Starting an insurance project reduced from 10 weeks to 3 weeks.
- Time to solution for problem decreased to 7 weeks from 20 weeks.
- 90% of projects adopting agile techniques were able to deliver results and value on time to their customer
As a consequence, the company started using agile project management for 15% of its customer portfolio and have been regularly using agile techniques at the management level.
Related article: 10 Reasons for project management failure
Improvements in technology has helped organizations achieve goals faster by saving time, but it has also increased the complexity of incorporating them with the projects. According to McKinsey-Oxford study, when IT projects have budgets that exceed $15 million in 45 percent of cases there are budget overrun. Also, these projects may exceed the timelines and produce 56% less value than expected.
Sometimes, the reason for failure is due to a new software implementation ands a lack of adequately trained team members to bring it to its maximum potential. Another reason is a too important focus on process and budget rather than achieving short-term goals and moving forward.
Overall, IT projects are a combination of arts and science. The science involves choosing the right methodology and technologies to complete the project. The art involves overcoming obstacles, meeting stakeholder’s expectations, coping with sudden conflicts and changes in the project. Give importance to the value and outcome of the project rather focusing on budgets.