IT Project Managers speak up

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IT Project Managers are often working with fewer resources than they would like. (Aren't we all!) CIO Magazine has an article on this topic and I'd like to run through what they've found and what kinds of things I've learned in the same circumstances.

One of the greatest desires of IT PMs is to be involved in the project from the inception. This allows the IT staff to create an environment for success. I've often found that project stakeholders are unaware of how a new software package can impact the network. In some cases, the decision-makers do little more than confirm that the network meets the minimum requirements for the new application.

There are many reasons why decision-makers may not want to share info on a new project. It may not be identified as a project yet, it might be a delicate situation that will result in reduced staff (layoffs), it may be taking place during a time when all spending is being scrutinized. Who knows?

What I've learned:

Keep communication as open as possible with management. Demonstrate that you are someone who can be trusted. When possible, take the time to help management understand what is going on in the network. If nothing else, this will remind them that IT has an important role in the company.

Another problem often cited by PMs is that they do not have the ability to put together the perfect team for each project. Team members come and go, or their available time for the project does not meet the needs of the PM.

What I've learned:

Again, communication is the key. If you cannot get the resources that you need, you cannot meet your deadlines. This needs to be explained in a positive and proactive way. However, every team has the potential to cultivate previously unidentified talents. You may find that you do have the resources that you need.

Next we talk about tools. PMs need PM tools, but many are stuck with task managers, spreadsheets, and hundreds of emails that communicate progress. Every PM wants powerful but easy-to-use PM software.

Project Management software is used to plan, schedule, assign, calculate, predict, report, and more. But PMs don't want something that requires a lot of time to learn or a lot of power to run.

What I've learned:

Asset yourself as the Project Manager and identify the software that you would like to use. Period. If you cannot get the software, community the fact that you will find an alternative but it will not meet the needs as well as your choice.

You should also show others the value in the software you are using. I recently introduced a co-worker to Asana and he loves it. It isn't proper PM software, but it's an example of how sharing information can encourage adoption.

The remaining concerns expressed by IT PMs are,

  • To have clearly defined project objectives and requirements
  • To get buy-in from stakeholders and end-users
  • To be treated as PMs and not as administrative assistants
  • To be allowed to adjust projects as needed

I put these together because my responses to these concerns are so similar. As I said in my last point, you have to assert yourself as the Project Manager. Own it. It's you. If you want others to respect that you are the Project Manager, then you also have to respect that you are the Project Manager.

Admittedly this is easier to do if you are brought in specifically to manage the project, and if you have the title, “Project Manager.” It's harder if you are the sysadmin who is told to make something happen. But either way, you are the Project Manager. It's YOUR job to clarify the objectives and requirements. It's YOUR job to get buy-in from stakeholders (End-users often are stake-holders, btw). It's YOUR job to adjust projects as needed and communicate the need for doing so. And if you are an administrative assistant and not a Project Manager, then none of this is your job.

It's easier said than done, but there's an entire field of study devoted to improving the relevant processes and helping PMs improve their skills.

What I've learned:

One of the most important things you can do is manage the communication around a project. Among many other things, communication allows you to,

  • Set expectations among your stake-holders
  • Confirm a shared understanding of deliverables among your team members
  • Give you the best possible chance of having all relevant information about your project

What I've learned the hard way:

If you under-communicate, you're screwed.

There's plenty of information online about Project Management, and I encourage you to take a look at it if you are new to PM. (I like this site) And while you're learning about PM, remember that your partners and vendors are there to help you too. If you're selecting products or confirming the capabilities of the products you already have, don't be shy about asking questions. If you're wondering about Barracuda products, you can find our corporate contact information here and our social contact information here.

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