Setting up a new IT project is always a challenge. All the more so if this is to take place in the midst of a pandemic that not only brings business uncertainties, but also economic instability and a distributed, unsettled workforce.
Nevertheless, even in difficult times, it is possible to set up a team of world-class format that meets or even overachieves project goals, budget and schedule. The key to the project management dream team lies in persistence, strong management and razor-sharp targeting. We provide you with seven tips to equip your next IT project with sustainable success.
Before you start a new project management team, the project manager must first establish a reason for existence. This is based on the planned time frame, the goals and the value of the project. The following key points should be defined for the planning of IT projects in order to ensure that the goals are achieved and to take the needs of the individual team members into account:
the scope of the project (scope),
the internal and external stakeholders,
the required skillsets as well
the expected workload.
In any case, the planning of the IT project must be completed before proceeding with the next steps. Otherwise there is a risk that the project will go in the wrong direction right from the start: everyone involved must be clear about the purpose of the project and the expected results in order to pull together.
Once the mission and goals have been clearly communicated and understood, it is time to put together a team that will bring the project to a successful conclusion. The main challenge for managers is to select team members who have the right combination of product know-how, technical skills and collaborative skills.
“First, look for candidates who are strong in all three areas, and then fill the remaining spots on the team with employees who are strong in one or two areas – at best, so that they complement each other,” recommends Chris Van Hoack, director of program and project management at the consulting firm ISG, before adding: “You shouldn’t write off the technically strong but introverted candidate directly – he can prove to be a strong team player.”
When it comes to skills, your team cannot be broad enough – you should, above all, value candidates who have software or IT system expertise in areas that are critical to the success of the project. In addition, you should also consider employees who have proven themselves to be efficient and communicative teamworkers in the past.
Nicole Athanassiadis, Vice President IT Business Technology at Mitel, is convinced that a business analyst should also be part of every project team: he can work directly with the project manager to identify the business processes relevant to the project and to deal with the project To interact with stakeholders. “The business analyst can come from the IT department, a specialist department or from a third-party provider who supports the implementation,” says the expert.
There are several ways to assign tasks to team members. Which route is the most suitable depends on the complexity and size of the project, as well as whether third parties are on board in the form of providers or partners. The most common project management methods are the waterfall model and agile.
Regardless of which model is used: The project tasks should always be kept transparent and visible. For this purpose, one of the numerous project management tool sets is recommended to “lash down” the visibility and clear responsibilities electronically. Good tools can represent all tasks across the project portfolio, provide information about working hours and also reached or upcoming milestones.
It is also crucial at this point that each individual team member is aware of their tasks and role – especially when it comes to larger teams in which overlapping responsibilities can arise.
- Microsoft Project
The first project management software appeared on the market around 30 years ago: Microsoft Project. Back then, the Redmond company needed software to better coordinate the work of its software teams. In 1984 the first version for the MS-DOS operating system was published. Since then, the software, which focuses primarily on project planning, has continued to develop and is now also available in the cloud.
The software company Planio from Berlin has developed an extensive all-in-one platform based on the open source solution Redmine, which has positioned itself as a serious alternative to the US heavyweights in Germany. From numerous features for project and task management, through file and knowledge management with wikis and FAQs to advanced modules for communication and customer support: the wide range of functions of the web solution operated in the German cloud leaves nothing to be desired in terms of functionality.
- Base camp
When it comes to project management, the name “Basecamp” quickly comes up. The app provides a central location for the organization and coordination of projects. Project teams can create notes and to-do lists, upload files and plans, and assign and manage tasks. It is also possible to communicate with the colleagues involved about the project progress in chats. Version 3 of Basecamp is currently available.
Projectplace is one of the first professional PM solutions designed for the browser. The first release of the software was published in 1998. Since then, Projectplace has continued to evolve. Today it presents itself in a modern flat design and comes up with an extensive feature set that covers all important aspects of successful project management. With high-quality apps and social collaboration functions, the tool also addresses the current requirements placed on modern productivity solutions today.
- Clocking IT
The free, web-based project management tool “Clocking IT” is mainly aimed at software developers who want to efficiently manage their extensive projects. Thanks to a clear dashboard and extensive collaboration features, project progress and the processing of individual tasks can be monitored and documented at any time.
“Trello” was launched in 2011 and is offered by the software company Fog Creek Software from New York. According to the manufacturer, the visual project management solution now has over 12 million registered users. The approach is strongly based on the Kanban concept. Instead of organizing projects and individual tasks in lists, they are presented in index cards with which the user can interact visually in an intuitive manner.
The web-based “5pm” offers all the features you would expect from a project management tool and puts the topic of time recording in the foreground. 5pm awaits, among other things, with a clear representation of the individual projects and tasks, extensive time management functions and a clear representation of the respective project progress. In addition, 5pm offers the possibility to create individual project groups, email integration and extensive reporting functions.
“Wrike” is a sophisticated PM solution from California that can convince with an extensive feature set, many integration options and mobile support. The main functions of the modular application include task management, shared document management, and communication tools such as comments, activity streams and email integration. Classic PM tools such as Gantt charts and reporting, as well as additional features such as time recording, round off the software’s range
The free software solution “Klok” is less suitable for classic project management in the sense of collaboration, but rather as a tool for personal time management. Especially for self-employed and one-man companies, Klok offers the opportunity to optimally split their respective working hours into individual projects and not lose sight of important dates.
- Blue Ant
From classic resource planning to to-do lists, time recording and portfolio management – the extensive “Blue Ant” web tool from proventis GmbH in Berlin offers a wide range of functions for a wide variety of projects. With a variety of interfaces and web standards, Blue Ant can be easily integrated into an existing IT landscape.
With the free cloud solution “TrackingTime”, the self-employed and teams can manage their projects and tasks together and conveniently record all working hours. The application comes with a modern user interface and is available for web, desktop and mobile (iOS and Android). Another plus is the detailed reports for customers, projects and employees, which you can easily create in the browser and export as a CSV file.
“Redbooth” is a holistic PM solution that covers all central aspects of efficient collaboration with a strong focus on communication, project planning and file management. When it comes to team communication, Redbooth comes up with chat discussions and video conferences in HD quality. Documents can be assigned to projects and edited together with the whole team. When it comes to document management, the program offers seamless integration options with cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Box.
“CoMindWork” offers both the possibility to work web-based on the manufacturer’s server and to use the software in your own network. In addition to classic project management functions such as the creation of projects, to-do and task lists, file sharing options and the common time management functions as well as Web 2.0. Features CoMindWork offers extensive possibilities to adapt the software to your own needs. In this way, many points can be individually adapted from the design to the arrangement of the user interface.
Working purely web-based, “Werkstatt42” is particularly suitable for smaller companies and the self-employed due to its compact range of functions and moderate costs. Features include task management, the ability to collect information centrally on whiteboards, and file sharing options.
- Zoho Projects
“Zoho Projects” contains all the necessary applications for project management. These include task management and milestones, time recording, calendar functions and Gantt charts. Users can also chat with each other, exchange their documents and create a wiki.
Anyone looking for an all-in-one solution should take a look at “ActiveCollab”. The central functional modules of the Canadian-based solution include project planning, collaboration, invoicing, time recording, expenditure management and a comprehensive reporting functionality. Another plus is the many integration options thanks to the open programming interface, SDKs (Software Development Kit) and add-ons. The seamless integration option with a version management system makes the solution particularly interesting for software teams.
Just like most of its competitors, “Smartsheet” is web-based. Individual projects are created in so-called smartsheets and the respective project employees are added. All the information related to the project, such as the communication of the project participants, file attachments and shared documents, can then be reached quickly via the respective smartsheet.
The web-based solution “PIEmatrix” offers the possibility to map, structure and manage projects in all project phases based on existing templates. You can choose to structure the project flow based on the integrated templates or to modify it according to your own needs. Once created, templates can then be easily saved and used as best practices templates for similar projects.
- Projektron BCS
“Projektron BCS” works purely web-based and has all the classic project management functions, such as task management, a ticket system, various evaluation and reporting functions, flexible rights management and time management functions.
Successful cooperation primarily requires open, transparent communication. In regular team meetings, the focus should be on the tasks ahead – and any hurdles that stand in the way of project success. This works best in the context of face-to-face interactions – unless a global pandemic is raging. Then video conferencing solutions are the best alternative to ensure communication in distributed teams.
When planning meetings and video conferences, it is particularly important to respect the needs and timing of the individual participants. Time conflicts, for example, can usually be resolved quickly as part of a compromise, provided there is a bit of flexibility.
Motivation is one of the strongest project management tools – if used correctly. It is the responsibility of the team leader to put small, supposedly insignificant tasks in a larger context, as Tammy Alairys from EY America explains: “If the goal is still a long way off, a manager should be able to achieve interim milestones and highlight smaller team successes in order to convey appreciation to the participants and motivate them to stay on the ball. “
As the person in charge of setting up a project, leaning back and only waiting for weekly status updates, your project will in no way lead to success. Or as Miles Ward, CTO at the service provider SADA puts it: “Executives do not lead with their fingers and therefore by withdrawing”.
It is an absolute rarity if there are no internal inconsistencies within an IT project. However, this does not necessarily have to be a bad thing – on the contrary: constructive feedback can often help to solve emerging problems. The trick is to keep discussions at a relevant and professional level.
In the case of team-internal differences, managers should conduct root cause research: Is the reason for the discrepancies in the project itself or in personal disagreements? If the former is the case, you should consider whether you have communicated the project goals clearly enough. If there are personal differences, it is advisable to consult the HR department for support.
An affordable, highly efficient way to celebrate project success: reward your project team! It works with both tangible and less tangible rewards that help team members “shut down” and return to their usual job roles. Monetary rewards are of course always well received, but should also be promptly arranged by the human resources department: Those who have to wait six months for a bonus after a successful project will not receive a particularly positive confirmation.
In addition, a little internal or public publicity can do no harm: Become a promoter of team performance and share your successful project – via intranet, press release or, for example, an application for the Digital Leader Award.
This article is based on an article from our US sister publication CIO.com.