What is IT project management?

IT project management (ITPM) describes the planning, scheduling, delivery, monitoring, and reporting involved in guiding IT projects to completion.

Information technology and the projects that incorporated or supported it were once the exclusive responsibility of IT-specific industries and companies. Today, the modern business landscape is a digital one, and technology-based projects and programs are no longer only relegated to just IT departments. The business transformation office for example (which is outside of IT) is responsible for many IT-focused projects and programs. As such, organizations and departments of all kinds include at least some form of information-technology component. IT project management must be capable of handling large, complex IT projects spanning a range of goals, fields, technologies, and more.

IT project management is guided by the IT PMO and IT project managers. These managers take the responsibilities of conceptualizing, organizing, budgeting, assigning, and carrying out tasks designed to help accomplish their company’s specific IT goals. Within this mandate are a number of key responsibilities. These include the following:

Creating a plan

Before any of the associated tasks or deliverables can be addressed, the IT PMO or project manager must first create a strategy for the project, including budget, scope, tools, resources, and timeline.

Assembling team members

IT project managers don’t work in a vacuum; they rely on IT teams to ensure successful project completion. The IT project manager will need to assemble the right specialists, subject matter experts, and auxiliary personnel capable of meeting the needs of the IT initiative.

Assigning responsibilities

It is the responsibility of the IT project manager to assign tasks to team members, provide clear direction related to scope and objectives, work with team members to establish realistic schedules and deadlines, and help facilitate collaboration between internal and external team members where necessary.

Managing the team

While the IT project manager will likely not be the one delivering on specific tasks within the project, it is their responsibility to ensure that the tasks are being completed effectively. This includes identifying and eliminating obstructions, analyzing risk, mitigating issues, collecting reports, providing training, and more.

Budgeting funds and resources

IT project managers need to set clear, realistic budgets for their projects. This includes creating informed estimates about expenses and adjusting plans when needed to ensure budgetary adherence.

Scheduling deadlines

Managing multiple team members with various objectives, IT project managers are responsible for setting and communicating schedules and managing timelines throughout the life of the project.

Communicating with stakeholders

Although the project manager takes the majority of the responsibility in leading the project, they are likely not the only ones invested in the project. IT project managers must also act as the liaison between their teams and other leaders, decision makers, sponsors, and stakeholders. The project manager is responsible for sending out status reports to show progress and call out issues.

Documenting processes

Documenting the progress of the project, as well as identifying any unexpected issues and other lessons learned can help ensure that future projects have a greater likelihood of achieving their objectives. IT project managers should keep a detailed record of any hurdles, challenges, shortcuts, or other insights they have gained throughout the project.

Every IT project is unique. That said, most follow a similar lifecycle. IT project management breaks IT projects down into five distinct stages:

Initiation

The first stage of project management focuses on defining the project and getting the necessary approvals to make it a reality. During this phase, the IT project manager should create a clear business case for the project, establish goals and objectives, and develop a basic understanding of the project’s risks and requirements.

Graphic of the IT project process

Planning

Incorporating the goals and other details identified in the previous phase, the planning stage is where the IT project manager creates a roadmap for their teams to follow through the course of the project. The planning stage involves identifying objectives, establishing deliverables, assigning responsibilities and tasks, creating a project outline, determining important success metrics, scheduling progress reports, establishing communication channels and criteria, choosing methodologies, and ensuring team access to necessary resources and tools.

Execution

The execution phase is likely the longest-duration stage, and is where the majority of the work on the project occurs. The execution stage begins with a kickoff meeting with all team members and relevant stakeholders. The meeting should introduce individuals, roles, responsibilities, scope, and the overall project plan. It should also establish how communication and reporting will be handled, which tools will be used, and what immediate next steps need to occur to get everything started.

Monitoring

Although separate from the previous stage, monitoring actually occurs concurrently with execution, allowing the IT project manager to constantly review and assess project direction. When issues arise or problems become apparent, ongoing monitoring allows project managers to make course corrections to keep the project on track in terms of scope, budgets, deadlines, or objectives. This phase may include managing resources, identifying and mitigating risks, updating budgets and schedules, modifying plans, holding meetings, collecting reports, and more. At the conclusion of this and the execution stage, all project deliverables should be complete.

Closing

Once the project has been completed and deliverables are in the hands of the customer or client, then the final steps are to review the overall success of the project, and planning to improve similar projects in the future. This includes identifying and discussing learned insights, taking inventory of deliverables, organizing documents and making them accessible, relaying project success to relevant stakeholders, and recognizing the contributions of team members.

IT project management is not a single, simple solution to IT success; it’s a range of different strategies designed to meet the specific organizational and departmental objectives. The following are tips and best practices for IT project management:

Begin with detailed project assessment

Before taking any other official steps, assess the project to determine whether it’s goals are in line with organizational goals and strategy. Likewise, weigh the potential benefits against possible risk, and determine whether the project is an effective use of available resources.

Collect the right documents

IT projects demand detailed documentation. Before executing on the project, determine what documents you need, and create a central location where these electronic documents can be stored and accessed by authorized stakeholders and team members.

Over communicate

When team members work in isolation, projects quickly lose direction. Err on the side of caution and establish daily meetings to help keep everyone on course and fully coordinated. Over communicating may be the single-most effective approach to identifying and resolving project blockers before they can cause damage.

Use a Gantt chart

A Gantt chart is a widely-used tool for establishing tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines along the project path. Using a Gantt chart can help provide team members and stakeholders with a clear overview of the current status of the project, and exactly what needs to happen to continue to move the project forward within established timelines.

Use digital workflows

Modern digital workflows are capable of incorporating advanced automation technologies to ensure that the right steps are being followed and that projects aren’t being slowed down by manual processes. Automated workflows can drastically streamline and simplify tasks, such as filling out forms, requesting approvals, taking actions, etc.

Rely on management software and tools

Effective IT project management tools and software will make it easier to communicate directly with relevant team members, monitor project progress in real time, and access relevant documents and other resources in a single location.

Review and reflect on strengths and weaknesses

At the conclusion of the project, take the time to review what aspects were effective, what challenges were encountered, what unexpected occurrences or variables may need to be planned for in the future, and any additional insights that may impact how the team approaches similar projects in the future.

IT project management presents a number of unique challenges. These include the following:

Dependencies across all levels and departments

IT projects often include stakeholders from across the entire organization. Getting buy-in from these stakeholders, meeting their needs, and keeping them in the loop concerning project progress can be a difficult undertaking, particularly when these stakeholders may not be IT experts in their own right.

Effective communication

Communicating relevant information to those who need it, when they need it, in the terms and language they understand takes advanced communication tools capable of sharing essential data and insights in a way that is easily accessible.

Transparency of deadlines and responsibilities

Complex IT projects depend on every team member being able to understand the entire scope of the project as well as its current status, when tasks need to be completed, and who is responsible for what actions.

Misalignment on methodologies

There are nearly infinite ways to complete any project. Left to their own devices, team members may employ conflicting methodologies, reducing efficiency and creating bottlenecks.

IT project management software is designed to provide support and resources to help facilitate accurate and data-focused project management. The end goal, of course, is to make the job of the IT project manager easier, to keep stakeholders and team members on the same page, to improve communication and accuracy for all involved, and to address the challenges mentioned above.

Benefits of IT project management software include the following:

  • Visualization of project tasks, deadlines, dependencies, and responsibilities using Gantt charts and work breakdown structures, making it easier to comprehend complex relationships and break down large jobs into smaller, simpler trasks.
  • Real-time dashboards showing the current, up-to-the-minute status of all ongoing IT projects.
  • Integration with project portfolio management to facilitate better project sections processes.
  • Alerts and notifications to capture the attention of those responsible for addressing issues or taking over next steps.
  • Data-rich reporting capabilities, automatically compiled and delivered at the click of a button.
  • Tracking and monitoring tools to determine which tasks are taking the most time and which team members are performing to expectations.
  • Customizable workflows to ensure effective next steps and efficient project progress.

 

ServiceNow is the industry leader in IT management solutions. ServiceNow IT Business Management supports the project manager with all phases of their projects for complete visibility into the work, including timesheet and status management. Additionally, ServiceNow ITBM Project Workspace provides at-a-glance details of relevant projects, allowing managers to fully define, plan, and monitor a project from conception to completion, and all from a single, central location.

Further support IT project management with advanced analytics, granular project details, built-in Gantt charts, resource plans, in-depth financials, and automated status reports.

Get unparalleled insight and control over your essential IT projects, with IT Business Management from ServiceNow.

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