IT project management requires a special set of skills. A project manager needs to understand the complexities of IT and its challenging nature. What’s more, managing a complex IT project requires solid leadership skills and the ability to get a message across in an industry that’s not well-known for its clear and unambiguous way of communicating.
An estimated 85% of projects go over budget to some degree. And this is for many reasons, however the majority of these reasons come down to one key factor: change. The change could be as simple as a team member coming down with the flu and having a week off, or it could be much bigger where the scope of the project completely moves. Whatever change might come your way, taking some early precautions will equip you to deal with the situation. In this post we look at some of the most common mistakes IT project managers make and give some helpful hints on how to avoid a budget blow out and deliver projects on time.
Blunder number 1: Not understanding the project requirements
No single person can fully understand every moving part of an IT project. When project managers don’t fully understand the scope of a project before setting deadlines and goals, they’re going to have issues. To get the foundations of the project correct, invest in time to speak with every single team member who will be involved with the project. It’s easiest to start from the goal and work backwards from there, using the team to help to outline what might be involved.
Blunder number 2: Unrealistic deadlines
Some people thrive with deadlines, others not so much. The biggest problem with setting hard deadlines for the team is that the team members may feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to complete the task. They rush and might make major mistakes or worse, if they’re pushed too far, lose all creative thinking and problem solving ability. Again to avoid this pressure, speak to the teams about what is a realistic time frame to get the job done.
Blunder number 3: The big picture gets lost
IT projects can be incredibly complex. And sometimes, during the planning phase of a project, the project manager knows everything but forgets to let the rest of the team know. While this sounds like a communication issue (which it is), it also demonstrates a lack of goal setting and leadership on the side of the project manager. Similarly, contributors can lose sight of the bigger picture. Technical experts can have a tendency to get caught up in the details and tasks, rather than the overall aim. The key here is to explain and continuously reiterate the scope of the project to the team, set goals to reach the objective and communicate it well. A project manager wants and needs the team to be advocates of the project! Which brings us to:
Blunder number 4: Lack of communication
Communication is the most critical factor to delivering any IT project. Whether the scope of the project changes or there are delays in some specific parts of the timeline, these should all be discussed with the team as they happen. Stakeholders should also be made aware of the cost a change to the scope will cause. This is not limited to financial cost, but should also encompass schedule delays and the impact on the quality of the finished product.
What’s more, for communication to be effective, it needs to flow freely in both directions. If a team member has an alternative idea of how to approach and execute a certain aspect of the project, they need to feel empowered to speak up to the project manager and fellow team members. To help projects be delivered creatively, while managing the expectations of stakeholders, encourage an environment of open communication, idea sharing and collaboration.
Blunder number 5: Not checking in on the budget and timelines enough
Only checking in on the budget every 3-4 weeks is going to cause nothing but headaches. Fixing a 15% budget overrun is easier to correct than a 70% overrun. To avoid a massive blow out you need to be checking in on the budget often - at least once a week. Continually forecasting the budget and amending and changing things where necessary are going to help project managers keep everything in line. Use a time tracking app like Harvest to keep tabs on everything.
Blunder 6: Not learning from mistakes
Many times budget blow outs could be avoided if we took the time to review the hits and misses from previous projects. This will give the project manager insight into how long it should take a team member to complete a task, factors that might contribute to going over budget and what can be done to avoid it. Adding some extra “fat” aka time and contingency budget to a project is well worth it, especially if past projects have missed the mark.
IT project management becomes a lot easier with time and practice. While even the most experienced project manager can’t predict change, they can manage it. If you want to learn other tips to help your small to medium business deliver IT projects on time and on budget, check out the CeBIT Australia SME Summary Report. You’ll get incredible insights from industry experts on a range of topics - including how you can improve your business’ processes. Download it today!