Managing IT projects can be stressful, time consuming, and confusing. Not only will you have to make on-the-fly determinations of priority and execution, but you’ll also have to stay within the parameters of a tight budget, and still make a final deadline.
Whether you’re installing new software on company devices, or going through something more significant, like upgrading your entire network security, it’s on you to make sure the project goes smoothly.
Thankfully, there are a few best practices that can help you manage any IT project more effectively.
Best Practices for Managing IT Projects
If you’re a dedicated IT project manager or just someone taking on a solo project on your own, these best practices can help you succeed:
- Choose the right dashboard. First, you’ll need a solid dashboard to help you track everything from task progress to eventual system performance. Datapine’s IT dashboard, for example, is designed to be comprehensive for all your IT project management needs. Ultimately, you’ll want a tool that’s easy to use, but is also comprehensive—with plenty of modules and room for customization so you can make it your own. And if there are any features that let you automate simple tasks, you can save a lot of time.
- Understand your high-level objectives. Next, make sure you understand your high-level objectives, whether you’re in charge of setting them or you’re getting them from someone else. For example, you may be assigned a specific budget and a specific deadline, as well as a list of minimum criteria to meet in terms of performance or outcomes. But which of these takes precedence? If you’re about to miss the deadline but an influx of cash could help you meet it, what should you do? Setting priorities well in advance can help you make these types of decisions.
- Prioritize using both urgency and importance. The classical Eisenhower decision matrix requires you to set priorities in terms of both urgency and importance. For example, there may be tasks that can only be done in the next few days that aren’t important to the bottom line of the project; these are urgent, but not important. There may also be tasks that must be done before project completion, but don’t need to be done immediately; these are important, but not urgent. Understanding these dimensions can help you prioritize everything more efficiently.
- Break everything down. Everything gets simpler when you break it down into base components. Split your big objectives into smaller, subsidiary objectives. Split your overarching, long-term tasks into digestible, executable short-term tasks. Doing this will take time in itself, but you’ll be able to make assignments and track progress much more efficiently.
- Know your team. Get to know your employees, contractors, partners, and other team members. Each individual will have unique strengths and weaknesses, as well as personal preferences. If you assign work according to these unique variables, you’ll be able to work much more efficiently and cohesively as a team.
- Polish your communication practices. Successful project management depends on effective communication, so spend time polishing your habits. When assigning tasks and reviewing objectives, be as clear, concise, and thorough as possible so there’s no room for ambiguity. Meet regularly, and be consistent in your meeting times. Perhaps most importantly, set standards for how your team members should communicate with you and with each other—and enforce those standards. This will reduce miscommunications and instill a greater team mentality.
- Get updates in real time and review visuals. If possible, review incoming data in real time. You should be on top of your project development on an ongoing basis. If something looks askew, you need to know about it—and respond as quickly as possible. Data visuals can help you here, allowing you to gain insights without having to crunch numbers.
- Make proactive requests to stay on schedule. Proactive management is far superior to reactive management. If you sense a possible obstacle, or deviation from your main plan, start working on it immediately. Procrastinating or ignoring early warning signs could cost you.
Additional Tips: Managing Your Team
Even if you follow all these tips, it’s important to realize the success or failure of your project will depend heavily on your team’s performance. Therefore, managing your individual team members (and/or contractors and agency partners) will be vital to your success. Checking in regularly, managing individual workloads, and keeping morale high will all be important to successful project execution.
Managing IT projects requires your attention to a number of different areas, including personnel management and emotional intelligence, high-level strategy and planning, and effective use of communication tools and dashboards.
Try to split your attention evenly, and respond to challenges as proactively as possible to stay on top of things.
Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, TheNextWeb.com and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.