IT Project Management Best Practices In 2024 – Forbes Advisor

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Knowing how to manage an IT project is critical to getting the best results. With the right planning and communication, you can put your team in a position to deliver a project on time and on budget with minimal risk.

Below, we’re going to look at some of the top IT project management best practices you can use to make sure your project is a success.

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In a nutshell, IT project management is the process of planning, managing, developing, deploying, monitoring or reporting on information technology projects. This includes any project information systems, computers or other IT infrastructure.

Projects that fall under this banner include software development, web development, mobile app development, network configuration and hardware deployment.

At its core, IT project management is about ensuring that all projects are planned and executed effectively, clearly communicating and defining processes to relevant employees and teams, while working toward meeting stakeholders’ expectations.

It’s also about being able to make real-time adjustments to the project’s direction as new challenges emerge throughout the process.

This is the initial phase where you define the overall objective of the project. During this process, you’ll likely need to hold a pre-project meeting with your IT team and other stakeholders to define what the project is looking to achieve, setting out a basic project road map, gathering feedback and ultimately achieving buy-in.

In this phase of the project management life cycle, it’s time to start identifying the steps you’ll take to achieve the project’s goals. While this may have been discussed briefly during the initiation phase, this will now need to become much more detailed.

Now you’ll start to break down the project into milestones, assigning roles and responsibilities to each employee, providing deadlines for each deliverable as well as the overall project, and determining an overall budget.

You’ll also want to start developing a central source of truth and documentation that employees can refer to, including a change management process. All involved teams should be made aware of how to report progress and voice concerns.

They should also be encouraged to sign all necessary documents such as nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and requests for proposal (RFPs).

Once your plan is set in stone, it’s time to start executing tasks and milestones. You can now begin tracking your team’s progress. This not only includes tracking and monitoring their performance through the use of KPIs, but also whether they’re completing the necessary deliverables on time.

More broadly, you (or the IT project manager) will also be able to act as a central resource to help support employees if there are any unforeseen challenges. Support is key to ensuring ongoing risk mitigation and keeping the project within budget.

Ultimately, the success or failure of project execution rests on the ability of employees to communicate clearly about the progress of the project and any obstacles they face.

This is the final phase where the project and all of the underlying deliverables are finally completed. As the project comes down to an end, you’ll begin decommissioning the temporary workflows, meetings and operations you used to deliver the project, and getting all key stakeholders to sign off on the project.

You’ll also want to create a report reviewing the project’s performance. This is looking to establish whether the project concluded successfully, and if there was anything that could have been done better. It should also include a record of changes made during the life cycle of the project so you can see what improvements were made.

Together, this information will help you to learn from any mistakes made and generate insights that you can use to ensure the success of future projects.

Throughout the project management life cycle, there are some key steps you’ll want to take to maximize your chances of success. These include:

Communicate with all key stakeholders to make sure that all the necessary individuals have signed off on the project. Getting the green light will come down to your ability to communicate the project’s value, often translating technical challenges into layman’s terms.

Draft a highly detailed plan for your project to highlight its overall objective, and smaller tasks/milestones you’re breaking it down into. Your plan should also include an overall budget and timeline, as well as what internal resources and employees you need to make it happen, and the KPIs you’ll use to measure performance.

Select an IT project manager to take responsibility for managing the administrative progress of the project as a whole. The project manager can act as a central point of contact for all employees involved in the process and monitor performance to make sure that all milestones are delivered on time.

Develop a team of employees to work alongside the IT project manager to help drive the project forward. Each member should know their role and responsibility and be familiar with the overall objectives of the project.

Produce a communication plan to outline what information employees need to communicate internally. This includes when/how to contact the IT project manager with status updates, as well as any scenarios where information should be shared with other teams or stakeholders.

During the execution phase, you’ll want to closely monitor KPIs to assess whether the project is progressing as it should. If certain teams are underperforming, then this provides you with valuable information you can use to react and make changes to get your project back on schedule.

If your plan doesn’t function as well as intended, then having a change management plan is essential for ensuring that your employees have a formal process they can refer to. This can help them to change the project direction while getting the green light from all the necessary stakeholders.

When it comes to IT project management best practices, there are a handful of actions you should keep in mind. These include:

Drawing up a plan with clearly defined goals and objectives, including an outline of the overall project scope that breaks down the steps required to achieve the goals, and a basic timeline will make sure that all key employees and stakeholders will know what needs to be done to stay on track.

Make sure there’s a defined communication process detailing who to contact and how, to make sure that employees know how to ask questions about the project.

Use a responsible, accountable, consulted and informed (RACI) matrix to outline employees’ roles and responsibilities for the project. This should include all relevant tasks, milestones and decisions they will be accountable for throughout the process.

Select a project manager to lead the project, not just to take responsibility for the transformation but to advocate for it to get the support of other stakeholders and teams.

Draw up a central reference document that acts as a single source of truth for all your project information. This can include instructions and hyperlinks to key documents and files so that employees and stakeholders can easily access the information they need.

Create a secure shared drive to store all files related to your IT project on. This will make it much easier for employees to access project materials. Make sure that only authorized users have permissions to access the enclosed documents.

Lastly, limit the amount of work in progress to make sure that only a manageable amount of tasks are active at a single time. This will take pressure off of your employees and reduce the chance of mistakes.

Even the best laid plans aren’t immune to hiccups, but the more detailed your preparations, the better you’ll be able to adapt if your project experiences challenges on the way. After all, having a plan doesn’t just benefit the project manager, it also gives employees the guidance they need to know what’s expected of them to make the project a success.

Preparation and communication are the keys to success in any IT project. A detailed plan will not only help to get buy-in from stakeholders but will lay out employees’ roles and responsibilities for the project. This ensures there’s no ambiguity about what they’re expected to do throughout the process.

While the IT project manager is in charge of the overall project, this doesn’t mean they can’t delegate tasks to other employees. If there are lots of tasks going on at once, consider reducing the amount of active tasks or seek additional support from other members of the project management team.

Once again, preparation is the key. A detailed plan that breaks a project down into clear milestones—assigned to particular employees and teams, and overseen by a dedicated project manager—can reduce the chance of going beyond the scope of a project.

With over seven years of experience as a freelance technology writer and reporter, Tim Keary has a range of experience breaking down complex technologies into simple and accessible content. His work has been featured in Forbes Advisor, Techopedia and VentureBeat.