3 Ways to Be a Great IT Project Manager
Because good IT strategy and planning can live or die by the IT project manager running it.
It’s difficult to judge really isn’t it? In any role, not just project management, how can you really argue whether someone is genuinely ‘good’ or ‘not good’ at what they do?
Your IT strategy and planning should almost always encompass a key individual that really drives home that point: Things get done because that person is on the ball.
IT strategy and planning is so necessary because the cost of the projects and their importance to the company is high and quite often plays a key part in other projects success.
Choosing between the IT project manager that is going to take it all in and get the job done, against the toxic one that will see your budget skyrocket with errors and your team walking out the door is a crucial decision. Let’s get into why that is…
A good IT project manager will be accountable
The first point is about every businesses favourite phrase: accountability.
Many people actually find themselves avoiding or never seeking advancement into junior or middle management due to exactly this – responsibility, accountability, ownership – call it what you like.
Our british school’s don’t help it, neither does the way we’re brought up really.
I used to wind up my parents and call it the inhouse “blame game” because of my dad’s ability to want to pin anything and everything on me even if i was in the other end of the country at the time it happened.
Bringing in an IT project manager however can quickly be accessed on how well they deal with the accountability of their role.
Someone that looks to pass the buck, shift blame and generally always position themselves to be the one that’s answerable and “in control” but somehow never responsible, is a dangerous staff member indeed.
This is in fact the complete opposite to what you want, sewing disharmony and distrust throughout the team they are managing. Things get messy as everyone fights to keep themselves covered from potential catastrophe not knowing who will backstab or cop a disciplinary when stuff hits the fan.
Accountability with a good IT project manager will purely start and end with them.
Their project, their team, and at the end of the day the nature of their job, is that they’re accountable.
Someone with good moral values that presents honour and trust to their team is worth 10 other project managers lacking those qualities. Fact.
A good IT project manager doesn’t underestimate the importance of IT strategy and planning!
I accept that many project managers, many jobs even, start with you picking up the pieces of wherever your predecessor left off.
A lot of the time that situation isn’t a pretty one for the first month or two.
If a project has just fallen to pieces, costs are spiralling out of control and senior management are loosing grip of the situation then by all means, as the new IT project manager you have every right to roll things back to square one.
Many failures stem from a lack of IT strategy and planning. Most of those shortfalls come from poor management, lack of budget and poor time scales and deadlines being set out before them.
Governance, compliance, risk mitigation, infrastructure requirements, legacy systems and feasible deadlines for the skill levels of your staff, on top of their existing workloads will all play a big role.
So if you’re going to be accountable for a project, a team and your management of both, I would almost expect to see a roll back to basics, to make sure you’re not about to be slapped by what saw the last person potentially leave, or your new position get created to fix it.
Key factors and questions to consider:
Acknowledge risks and deal with them early in your mitigation plan. – Know and access the realistic skill level of the staff you have available and their work rates.
Are stakeholders or senior management not engaged, or worse, are they the problem causing a lack of progression?
Have legacy applications and systems been factored into the project, do they even hold it back?
- Go as far as the infrastructure and implementation planning of what this project looks like when it’s delivered, and does it continue past that point with critical value to the company?
No one can ever have a go at you for wanting to plan a project properly, and a good IT project manager will want this above all else. To have a clear read on every card in the deck before entering into a project gives you all the better view of whether success is achievable, or whether you’re signing yourself up for failure.
A good IT project manager will communicate transparent realistic objectives
Transparency between you and your staff does a lot for a team.
As an IT project manager fresh through the door, getting on level terms with your team is a big stepping stone.
People want to know they’re more than just a cog in a machine. More so they want to know you’re not just coming in to use them, abuse them and be rid of them come the finish line.
If your team, your projects goal and your project management all play a role towards a bigger objective for the company, then share it.
Be clear on what it does, why it’s being done this way, what that helps, what it avoids, how does the business benefit, how does the team benefit?
Remember: people respond to incentives!
Transparency in your communication with your staff can and will be key, not only in earning trust, but getting to a point where you can set realistic deadlines.
Find a center for communications, be it Trello, be it Slack, whatever you fancy, have everyone communicating with everyone else and don’t operate behind closed doors.
Set an objective for someone and share it with the person it will get passed onto after that so the team as a whole, working like a team, can both be aware of and aid each other in achieving what has been agreed… as a team.
You’re an IT project manager, a facilitator, a friend to all, and most importantly the person that can draw a line in the sand between reasonable and achievable, or unfeasible and unrealistic.
If your team, the board and anyone inbetween can all agree that whatever needs doing, it can be negotiated, communicated and realistically engineered into work that can be delivered to try and satisfy all parties. Then are you not proving what a fundamentally ‘good’ IT project manager truly is in their role? Your role.
If a team member can’t say it to anyone, then they can at least say it to you!
Good or not your IT project management proof will be in the pudding.
In short, being a truly good project manager is a combination of the above and more.
Getting a project over the line won’t win the day, if everyone hates you, your management is super poor and your process was horrible.
Not biting off more than you can chew, knowing the strengths of everyone in your team, planning your strategy from top to bottom, communicating transparently to set objectives that are realistic and actually achievable.
As the person brought in to accomplish what other management couldn’t or to simply see a project to completion without it getting out of control, you have a lot of power.
IT projects usually carry a high value to the company, and at the same time operate at large expense.
A “fake it until you make it approach” may work for a while, but quickly you will see the difference between the mistakes of the unprepared manager seeping through, and an IT project manager that truly has two hands on the wheel of his project and his team.
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