IT project management is no joke.
Among PM roles, it’s easily one of the most demanding and involves seriously high stakes.
Why? Because IT projects are complex and expensive.
Switching between software. Migrating servers. Onboarding new users to a platform.
These are the sort of projects likely to experience overrun because they involve so many people. Specifically, stakeholders that don’t understand the steps involved.
Still, effective IT project management is integral to any given business.
And with business tech spending expected to increase by 5.5% in 2022, new projects are likely incoming (in addition to what you’re already wrangling).
In this guide, we’ll break down the best practices for IT project managers and what they need to know to better manage their team.
What is IT project management?
IT project management represents the planning and execution of information technology-related initiatives for an organization. This includes software, hardware, security, and infrastructure. IT project managers organize and oversee all things tech, communicating with departments and stakeholders to ensure the successful roll-out of any given project.
Some big-picture responsibilities of an IT project manager include:
Managing software rollouts, updates, and replacements
Researching and anticipating system changes
Addressing potential security risks and data breaches
Upgrading networks and infrastructure
Evaluating company-wide (and individual) IT-related requests
Not only do successful project managers oversee all of the above, but they also do this while keeping in touch with everyone involved in the project.
Generally, the PM side of IT project management takes priority over the "IT."
Translation? It’s more important for IT project managers to excel at organization and communication versus being an all-knowing tech wizard.
As a result, mastery of project management methodologies such as waterfall, agile, and scrum, is integral to moving projects forward when juggling so many tasks and relationships.
What does an IT project manager do and why does it matter?
The specific duties of an IT project manager aren’t one-size-fits-all. Day-to-day tasks and priorities typically include:
Gathering project requirements and input from stakeholders
Estimating budgets and resources for IT-related projects
Running regular risk assessments
Checking in with various departments during projects to assess progress
Handle communication with vendors (RFPs, contracts, negotiations)
But if you ask an IT PM what they do all day, chances are they’ll say “meetings.”
That’s because IT project management requires near-constant cross-team collaboration. Delegating tasks and staying in the loop is crucial for both the success of any given project and keeping your business up and running.
Below is a quick breakdown of the big-picture duties of an IT project manager and why they’re so important.
Set realistic goals to keep projects and their participants on schedule
In many cases, the rollout of an IT project has organization-wide consequences.
Think about it. A business or marketing initiative might impact a select few employees.
But tasks such as server migration or organizational software changes impact everyone.
If an IT project drags on too long, headaches are inevitable. Specifically, you don’t want to force employees to deal with downtime because of an unexpected delay in getting the hardware they need.
That's why project milestones are so crucial to longer, in-depth projects where a simple "task completed" won't suffice. In fact, Milestones give a target date that works as an important momement or goal in the project in which the next phase can be completed.
Realistic goals and schedules keep these issues from snowballing or happening at all. Also, consider that tech moves quickly. Dragging your feet results in mid-project changes that throw a wrench in your progress (think: a significant update or price increase during software adoption).
Motivate and push teammates to ensure projects are completed properly
Again, IT projects are often complicated. Not all of your colleagues are going to be tech-savvy and that’s totally fine.
That said, you should still strive for efficient and effective projects.
As a result, IT project managers often have to press participants for their confidence and confirmation. Doing so means managing expectations and ensuring that those involved are putting in the legwork.
Control project resources to avoid budget overruns
No surprise here: resource planning is central to IT project management.
Software is expensive. And hardware even more so. Implementation is time-consuming and intensive.
You can’t afford to underestimate the cost of your project and its resources. Literally. Research is key here, as is getting buy-in from stakeholders to ensure your project budgets cover what’s needed for a job done right.
Using Teamwork's Resource Scheduling feature not only gives you a bird's-eye view of your team's workload, but the dashboard also lets you break down individual projects or view them against others. This helps you prevent over-assigning tasks to some and under-assigning to others.
Anticipate risks to keep your company compliant and out of trouble
The most pressing tasks of project managers involve anticipating and preventing security snafus. This might include:
Data breaches (both organizational and among customers)
Shadow IT (and recurring, costly software licenses)
IT project management requires you to be proactive rather than passive, especially when it comes to security. Risk assessment and having a pulse on your company’s IT activity are must-dos.
Sequence tasks the right way so your business doesn’t come to a halt
Hey, did we mention that IT projects are complicated?
Sequencing is a critical piece of project management for IT. You’re rarely dealing with a laundry list of tasks. Instead, you have to map out a specific game plan and order of operations.
For example, you wouldn’t want to accidentally break your company’s website or payment portal during peak hours because you rolled out an update too early.
What are the biggest challenges of IT project management?
It’s well-documented that many IT projects experience overruns and missed budgets. So where do IT projects usually go wrong? What can PMs do to nip problems in the bud?
Below is a rundown of the biggest challenges associated with IT project management and best practices for overcoming them:
Distributed (and isolated) teams, communications and data
The rise of remote work has been a positive for companies and employees at large.
But distributed teams don’t do any favors for PMs. From remote support and handling security issues to aligning schedules and addressing hardware issues, many of the most common virtual team challenges are front-and-center for IT.
Solution? Get your organization up and running in the same project management software. This makes scheduling virtual meetings, providing updates, and keeping in touch with your team so much easier.
No more endless email chains or missed messages. Easily view, mark as read, reply, or view all comments in your tasks without digging.
Managing stakeholders’ expectations (re: project requirements)
Especially in regard to scheduling, many stakeholders simply don’t understand what most IT projects entail.
Maybe their timelines are totally unrealistic. Perhaps they want a premium solution on a shoestring budget.
Either way, it’s your job to say “no” and push back against pipe dream projects.
Solution? More explicit project proposals and research. This applies to your own proposals and what others bring to you.
Lack of documentation and accountability once a project is underway
A huge problem among IT PMs is having the finger pointed back at them when a project goes sideways. Preventing the blame game requires you to document anything and everything related to your projects. This includes:
Deadlines and milestones
If a project fails, how do you know who dropped the ball? On the flip side, how do you identify top-performers when something goes right?
Since the proverbial “burden of proof” here falls on you, it becomes your job to set up projects in such a way that everything is documented. That includes tasks that don’t belong to you.
Solution? Again, work within a project management platform that documents and tracks tasks for you. With the Teamwork Project Health Report, teams, stakeholders, or clients have access to a detailed report breaking down the project.
By requiring teammates and stakeholders to input details themselves, nothing gets lost. This allows you to “get it in writing” with every nook and cranny of your project.
How to get more done with IT project management software
If you’re tired of living in Microsoft Projects or feel that your planning isn’t where it needs to be, we’ve got you covered.
Ideally, you need a tool that’s easy to use, collaborative, and allows you to practice your project management methodology of choice.
And that’s where Teamwork comes in.
To wrap things up, let’s look at how to stick to IT project management best practices and get more done with our platform:
Stay in touch with real-time status updates
Timely communication means that projects never stall and you have a constant pulse on your team’s progress.
Whether through team chat or updates via Kanban boards, you don’t have to wait around for answers. Instead, you can create a communication culture that eliminates bottlenecks and keeps project participants in the loop.
Consolidate your team’s communication and document all of it
Remember what we said about the importance of documentation? From initial requirements to requests and updates, consolidating the entire project life cycle from the proposal to the end result.
Developing an internal communications strategy is a game-changer for busy teams that struggle with deadlines and accountability. With a tool like Teamwork, each step of project progress is visual and easy to understand at a glance.
For IT teams working with clients, it's even more essential to streamline communication by knowing where the request came from in the first place. Teamwork makes it easy to see who's making the request – your team or the client.
Use schedule breakdowns and forecasts to monitor milestones
Speaking of visuals, having an actual roadmap of your project progress is helpful for managing both your expectations and those of your stakeholders.
For example, Gantt charts ensure more accurate projections as you understand whether you’re on track to hit your deadlines (see below). These sorts of visualizations are perfect for reporting progress to the rest of your team.
Teamwork’s multiple project views mean that both you and your teammates can keep track of their schedules the way they see fit.
Kanban view? Gantt chart? Calendar? Task list? Totally up to you
Stay on target with resource, budget, and individual time-tracking
From money spent and available resources to who’s been doing what on any given project, Teamwork allows you to monitor all of these points in real-time.
This is huge not only for the sake of accountability but also to understand whether or not you’re at risk for an overrun or budget issues.
Oh, you can also keep an eye on your teammates' progress to ensure that they’re not overworked or overloaded.
Sure, IT projects are demanding. That said, you shouldn't risk burning out your colleagues. With Teamwork, you can encourage equitable work across projects to keep employees happy and productive.
What’s your approach to IT project management?
Listen: being a top-tier IT project manager means mastering the arts of organization and communication.
That’s because IT projects don’t slow down. Between the projects themselves and the people they impact, you have to constantly be on your toes.
And with so many moving pieces to oversee and relationships to manage, anything you can do to streamline your processes and communication is a huge plus.