13 Tips for keeping IT projects under control
One major stumbling block in the success of IT projects is that the team members, for any reason, do not understand what is required from them. A lot of miscommunication between different departments can trigger such scenarios. Such problems are constantly faced by project managers in the software industry. So if you are managing an IT project, how can you avoid such scenarios so that the projects managed by you are under control with respect to cost and time estimates? A survey was held by the CIO, who asked a number of project managers and experts to find out how the projects can remain under control and run smoothly.
Following are the top 13 suggestions that have been collected from the survey to deal with the challenges that the project managers had to face and for keeping track of the progress of the projects.
1. The organization should ensure that the project manager hired for that particular project is the right one and has the requisite technical and soft skills to manage the project and the technical team. It is quite obvious that poor management kills the IT projects faster as most of the developers are too busy coding and seldom have the time to think about the ‘big picture’, which is a project manager’s primarily role.
2. Once a project manager has been designated for the right project, the right team should be assigned to that project manager. The team can include Business Analysts, Software Developers, Quality Assurance Engineers, etc. The right team empowers the project manager to make decisions regarding the project with ease. The resources in the team must be allocated on the basis of their skills and capability and not on their availability.
3. Each team member’s strengths and weaknesses should be fully understood by the project managers. They need to be fully aware of the environment necessary for their team to perform well under minimal supervision and work hard to provide those desirable work environments. Hence, the project managers for any project must understand that they act as ‘enablers’ of success for each of the team members under their supervision.
4. The project managers now need to span out the project and define milestones. Once it has been scoped out, the project manager’s task is to cut it by half and from that it should be decided how to start and complete the project successfully. This methodology is based on the famous ‘Minimum Viable Product (MVP)’ philosophy.
5. Tasks should be defined and prioritized and the project managers should come up with some procedures and guidelines in order to solve conflicts that can occur any time. The managers should know that multi-tasking can have adverse effects hence few tasks should be delegated to their team to increase productivity within the team. This can be achieved by reducing the number of work items to be executed and start on the new ones when the previous conflicts have been solved.
6. The project managers should be involved actively on their projects and monitor it continuously. They should be aware of what is going on at all times. The managers should monitor the project at the resource level and not be completely dependent on the traditional project tools for guidance.
7. Email should not be used as the sole project management tool. Efficient project management applications such as basecamp, Assembla or blossom.io are a much better alternative, as it is easier to track the project’s progress using these applications compared to just email. These web-based project management tools allow everyone on the project to see the progress online with ease.
8. The managers should hold short weekly meetings with the whole team for each member to attend meetings in which the team discusses on what they did last week, their plans for this week and any roadblocks they encountered during that week. The project managers need to ensure that those roadblocks or hurdles for each member are removed in order to enable steady progress. This also ensures motivation and urgency for each team member to make progress each week.
9. Managing changes in the original scope of work is very important in keeping the projects under control.
10. Spending some time on the groundwork for scope and clearly defining will eventually help in keeping the project on track. Whenever a client sends a new scope, it should be clearly conveyed to the client that it will be included in the second phase of the project, having its own cost and milestones rather than being implemented at the current stage. This will save the projects from being out of control.
11. Milestones should be created for each member of the team and give incentives to the team members once they have achieved those milestones. This will help in keeping the team members motivated about the project and a sense of accomplishment. Milestones should be defined in the planning phase of the project; this will assure the project managers and the team on the progress of the project.
12. The project team should consider adopting Agile practices rather than using the traditional methods of managing software. This method allows the team to adjust their project to the needs of the market and the client rapidly.
13. The managers should track time being spent by the team members in the completion of the major parts of the project. This will educate the project managers to the in accurate estimates they had made earlier on the project. The best tool for this is toggle.com, a cloud-based service for tracking time of the team members.
Samir Feroze is the founder of VeriQual Ltd, a software services company specializing in RoR, PHP, Android and iOS. He has also founded Yello.PK which is the largest user-generated content driven website in Pakistan. His interests include advising start-ups on technology, Location based applications, financing early stage ventures and outsourcing. In his spare time he likes to work on rotary engines.