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3 Tips to Streamline IT Project Management


June 24, 2016

4 minute read

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This post was originally published on the Smartsheet blog. Be sure to register for Smartsheet’s session at Cloud IT Live: Stories from the Wild: MacGyverying Workflows and Automation in the Cloud.

Project management requires a set of broadly applicable skills and tools, regardless of your field or discipline. The characteristics that make a project manager effective won’t vary too much from industry to industry, but every space has its own idiosyncrasies.

IT requires heavily specialized skills and knowledge, making IT project management feel like its own beast entirely. And because IT is the foundation of almost every organization, project management in the IT field can be exceptionally intimidating.

Compared to something concrete like construction, technology is always changing and difficult to master, particularly when you factor in the rapid and inevitable movement to the cloud.

MacGyver Meets IT in the Cloud

Do you remember MacGyver? You might be wondering what on earth an 80’s television series has to do with IT?

Well, before you read my three project management tips below, consider attending the upcoming Cloud IT Live virtual conference to learn how IT professionals are working automation into their IT environments. We’re fortunate to be presenting the session, “Stories from the Wild: MacGyvering Workflow and Automation in the Cloud,” on how to reduce the repetitive and mundane work in a MacGyver-esque style of creativity.

3 Tips You can Put Into Action Today

Now for the tips. By following these tips and tactics you can position yourself to successfully manage any IT project.

1. Know Your Project Methodology

Your project management method may have a name, and you don’t even know it. Four words you may commonly hear when discussing the most popular types of project management methods are Agile, Scrum, Waterfall, and Kanban.

Waterfall is the most traditional type of project management, focused on rigid timetables and deliverables. It’s disciplined and well documented, but incorporates change poorly.

Agile projects are rapid and iterative. They deliver working versions of products early on and continuously improve. However, documentation may be neglected, and a lack of disciplined end goals may result in a different result than you originally envisioned.

Scrum methodology is a subset of Agile focused on planned-length development “sprints,” followed by review and a revision of planning as necessary. A Scrum project deals with change exceptionally well but runs the risk of feature creep (ever-growing project scope) and can have ill-defined timelines and budgets.

Kanban comes from a Japanese word meaning “visual sign” or “card,” because it’s generally represented by sticky notes on a board. It’s a visual representation of a project, and works well when incorporating an Agile workflow. Kanban is flexible and easy to understand, but can be overly complicated if a team isn’t disciplined. It also lacks the timeline visualization of a Gantt chart.

Make sure your project is using a workflow method that fits not only the project but also your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get stuck in “this is how we’ve always done it” mode.

2. Set an Effective Project Timetable

Remember that every project, no matter the industry, follows the five key phases of project management:

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Performance/Monitoring
  • Closure

What this looks like can depend on your chosen methodology. A Scrum project, for instance, might have a single Phase 1, and then repeated cycles of Phases 2, 3, and 4 until finally reaching Phase 5.

Remember that workflows like Scrum and Kanban may lack traditional timetables; there’s no guarantee how many iterations a project might need until it reaches deliverable status. Make sure this is clearly communicated to decision-makers and stakeholders so you’re all on the same page ahead of time.

As a project manager, your job is to ensure that all cross-departmental coordination and communication has taken place before you get started. Don’t ask your artists and designers to enter a project that’s halfway finished and expect them to immediately get up to speed, for instance.

Keep them looped in from the beginning.

3. Don’t Micromanage Your Developers

Micromanagement can be effective at times. Coding isn’t one of them. Even if your personal background is in coding, your job right now is to be a commander. Focus on the big picture and how your project interacts with other departments, not whether your developer should use a different line of code in this routine. You hired your employees for a reason. Trust them.

This doesn’t mean you should just let your developers do their own thing, of course. Code is tricky on the best of days, and integrating it from different developers can be a project on its own. Make sure to set requirements and tasks clearly from the beginning to minimize your headaches when it comes time to compile and run the program.

Similarly, make sure your check-in meetings aren’t too frequent. When you have meetings, make sure they’re necessary and constructive to your end goals.

Working the Way You Want

You’ll find plenty of other tips for IT project management online, as well as a bevy of useful IT project management tools.

Collaborative work management platforms can solve many of your process and project management issues by making it easier to collaborate and share information with your workers and stakeholders, while give teams and individuals the ability to work they way they want.

Smartsheet recently incorporated Card View into its interface, which is derived from Kanban. Couple that with its Gantt and calendar views for timelines and Smartsheet gives all users the ability to work in a variety of methodologies. Sign up for a 30-day Smartsheet free trial and register to attend upcoming their upcoming session at Cloud IT Live.