IT project management: your path to the dream team

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.

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.

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