The Ten Commandments of Successful IT Project Management

Even with the best of intentions, managing projects in the Information Technology arena will always include elements of chaos. As a Project Manager you have a responsibility to effectively manage your project in a way that meets customer and stakeholder expectations.

Managing the expectations of your customers and stakeholders is just as important as understanding the vision and expectations of the initiative. Because you most likely do not have control over many of your resources, Stakeholders, Customers and Sponsor – identified process is the way in which you can successfully manage technical projects.

Identified process and communication of identified process will provide the parameters, expectations and the governance you need to be successful. In my experiences, failed projects all have had the same common thread; there was either a lack of defined process or identified processes were not properly communicated and adhered to. The good news is defined project management processes are available and made to be leveraged. The Project Management Institute (PMI) and Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI) offer best of breed industry standard process in both Project and Organizational Management.

A project is defined as is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end and often constrained by funding or deliverables. The following ten principles are essential and must be utilized for your project to succeed.

1) Sponsor / Business Commitment.

The Project Sponsor has the most interest in the project; in most cases the project is fulfilling business needs for the sponsor. Therefore, the Project Manager and Project Sponsor have a partnership and shared interest in the success of the project. In addition, the Project Sponsor usually controls resources and works directly with or supports the Project Stakeholders. Usually Project Sponsors are not understanding of the level of detail and commitment needed to successfully manage a technical project. The Project Sponsor must be engaged and fully understanding of the project scope and approach. In as much as the Project Sponsor needs to understand your commitment and approach, you need to understand the Project Sponsors commitment and expectations. Through the Project Sponsor, the business group must also have a clear understanding of their needed commitment and project approach. If the program does not understand and has not allocated time needed for their tasks, the project will most likely be delayed. A knowledgeable business team member will be required in many of the project phases including: analysis, JAD sessions, planning, design and testing.

2) Stakeholder Identification.

All stakeholders meaning all people affected by the project and or initiative must be identified. This is critical. Even successful projects can be a disaster if the initiatives are not understood at an enterprise level.

3) Project Scope.

It is critical that every project have a clearly defined scope that details all deliverables in relation to the business needs being met. The scope will be agreed on by the sponsor and all stakeholders, including Project Team Members. Any changes to the project scope will be addressed through the change management plan (discussed later).

4) Project Requirements.

Every project will need identified project requirements; the level of detail will depend on the complexity of the project. Generally, project requirements consist of functional (business) and technical requirements. The functional requirements address the business needs and may include: use cases, process flow diagrams, data needs, reporting needs, gap analysis, testing requirements and other documentation that accurately identifies the business needs. Technical requirements leverage the functional requirements with consideration to any technical standards and policies of the organization. Technical requirements may include: data base diagrams, architectural diagrams, screen shots, performance requirements and other technical specification and design documents needed to procure or develop the desired solution. It is understood that requirements are developed through analysis which will include Joint Application Design (JAD) sessions as well as interviews and or review of existing documentation. Both functional and technical requirements are to be reviewed, understood and approved by the designated project management Team.

5) Detailed Project Plan.

Contrary to popular belief a project plan is not just a Microsoft Project gantt chart/mpp file. A true project plan will consist of the following documents:

• Project scope – defined above

• Project requirements – Defined above

• Communications plan – A Communications Plan will identify all stakeholders who will receive communications, the level of communication, the method of communication and how often. This is important to set the expectation of how your stakeholders will be communicated with.

• Risk management – this document will qualify and quantify risks and how they will be mitigated.

• Gantt chart/project/cost schedule. This document; commonly referred to as the project plan will include time estimates, dependencies, milestones and identified resources. The gant chart includes the scheduling, dependencies and resources needed. This is the document that will be referred to when managing the schedule.

• Issues list/ action items. As issues are identified they will be included in the issues list, assessed and prioritized. The project team will determine how the issues will be addressed.

• Change Management Plan – The process in which scope change will be handled (described below)

6) Change Management Plan.

A change management plan identifies the processes involved when a requested change affects the project scope, requirements and or schedule. Typically the requested change, resolution, needed resources and project impact is identified by the project team. The final decision on how the request is handled is usually provided by the Project Sponsor and or Stakeholders.

7) Project Baseline

It is recommended the project be saved to a baseline. The baseline identifies the schedule and saves it. Any deviations from the base-lined schedule shall be identified and reported as part of status reporting.

8) Project Monitoring and Reporting.

Status reporting shall be done on an identified basis (determined in the communications plan) and include statuses regarding the schedule, cost, resources and any other issue which impact the project. In most cases an Issues list is employed to track identified issues and how the issues will be resolved in the form of a stated action.

9) Exception Management.

In as much as we would like things to go according to schedule, they rarely do. Exception management is a must and includes all actions relative to managing project exceptions. Exceptions include, project variances, schedule variances, scope change, resource issues, personnel issues, personality issues and any other issues you can think of.

10) Needed Skill Sets

To be most effective a Technical Project Manager should have a thorough understanding of: project management process, technical knowledge, and organization and communication skills.

Project Management is as dynamic and rewarding as it can be gut-wrenching; my advice- expect both. I hope this article provides assistance and a realistic reference for you to be most successful managing your projects.

Online Project Management Software – A Benefits Guide

In these challenging times, many organizations are faced with huge pressure to deliver change and improve business performance in order to survive. These change or transformation programs are managed via a series of projects designed to achieve certain goals be they cost reduction, new product, increased productivity or process improvement. An online project management software tool can benefit most organizations that can be faced with challenges such as project selection, project team collaboration, task management, resource planning, milestones and time sheet tracking.

A major obstacle in rolling out programs across teams or departments is collaboration and communication as project team members are often based at different locations and the natural communication channels allowed by being in the same room or building can’t be tapped into. This is where online project management can make the working life of the project team less stressful and more productive.

The main benefit of online project management software is to give all members of the project team full visibility of information and actions relating to project status, assigned tasks, risks, issues, and resource or time planning.

Some organizations consider a project management system or tool as a stack of overflowing files, multiple excel sheets, unopened emails and post-it notes. A project management solution such as this only hampers a project and case studies prove that most project teams will end up in the situation where tasks get missed or simply forgotten, milestones ignored and ownership has lapsed to the point where the project lurches into the “started but never completed” label.

The Project Management team needs a more organized solution rather than some project methodologies or an email and file sharing system. By having an online project management system in place there will be no more exchanging of emails with excel and word attachments or managers chasing up project team members for updates, as all concerned will have access to the same information from one central interface. This in turn will ensure that the organization is working on one project plan, even if departments and individuals aren’t positioned in the same building or even the same country. Project productivity is boosted as any team member can access their personalized project dashboard from work, home and the airport, the list is endless.

Projects plans can change from one day to the next and this can have significant implications on the management of that project, as the necessary users of that project may not have an updated version of the plan. By having an online system any changes are made once and from there all involved parties can be updated and view all project information in real-time. Visibility is essential to the successful management of projects and an online system achieves one unified version of any project.

Online project management software gives users huge flexibility and enables them to complete tasks, actions and programs to a high standard. This flexibility will have a positive knock on effect on the time and budget management of the projects as less time and money will be wasted updating and transmitting emails and files to team members.

Time spent by the PMO leaders interacting with all team members and reviewing project plan status will be maximized and in a more collaborative way. No more will the project managers have to spend vast amounts of time chasing up team members for project updates. Utilizing an online project management solution ensures that an organization gets completed projects, on time and on budget.
Gone are the phone and email conversation around the management of projects, gone are the excel sheets that require updating regularly. The PMO will have their time dedicated only to the management of projects and not the administration associated with projects.

Another key benefit of using project management software online is an increase in project output as all information is held at one point. The necessary tasks for a PMO such as making updates, analyzing reports can all be done via a single interface, available online 24/7. The information can also be easily accessed by senior management or stakeholders. Online project management unifies the project team, tasks, KPI’s and project goals, ensuring that all team members have a 100% understanding and eliminates project ambiguity.

For the most part, project management ensures that a team’s time is spent on the tasks and actions that get results and move the project forward for the good of the company. Team work is optimized as everyone is able to work together effectively, even if they are situated in different locations. To be successful an organization needs to have in place an effective system to manage all the elements associated with a program. That system should be online.

Overall, project management software will bring measurable financial returns and deliver clear outcomes across projects, programs and risk management to an organization, with its ease of use and flexibility. Lastly, team members will have online and instant access to all the information needed to complete their assigned tasks, making collaboration easier and increasing the project teams success.

The Accidental Project Manager: A Threat or an Opportunity?

Good Day All

Are you an accidental project manager?

We hope that no one get offended by this term since the use of this term in our view is not offensive at all, rather it reflects a common reality. However, in case anyone object to the term, we truly apologize in advance and humbly ask you to read on and you might find out that our intentions are good-hearted.


So what is the accidental project manager? Is it someone who is clumsy and stumbles into too many accidents? Absolutely not!

It is a term that somewhat common to use. It typically refers to a professional who is educated, experienced, and practicing in one function or domain, such as: engineering, programming, marketing, human resources, finance, general business, art, and healthcare, among many other fields. This professional, at one time or another, is tasked with managing a project related to their function or department, such as an engineering related project, learning and development project, a media project, or any other project. Now, the challenge is that more often than none, this professional might not have any experience or education or training in project management yet they are still asked to manage a project.

In other words, the professional is accidentally, or by chance/coincidence, get to manage a project although that was not likely a preferred career choice. Managing the project can be on a part-time or full-time basis. Once the project is complete, the professional resume his or her normal functional duties and maybe never manage a project again.

The Opportunity

For many professionals the above bring about a great opportunity. An opportunity to take on a new challenge, and acquire new and highly valuable skills; management skills. These skills are in demand in today’s economy and life and are transferable to many domains, including managing personal non-work initiatives.

If the person does a good job in managing the first project, she/he might be given an opportunity to manage another, and another, and maybe shift totally into project management and become a career project manager. A career PM is someone who chose project management as a career choice and shifted from whatever career they were in before. The transition might not be easy but would be quite rewarding.

The Threats

The threat to the professional and the organization is that the accidental PM might not be ready to manage a project and as a result they might not do well on the first project. If the project has a significant degree of complexity, then the project might even fail and we are likely to blame the project manager. Could this be the error of the accidental PM? Basically, the professional is given a new “challenge” as the boss might have said, yet this professional who is given the challenge might not have the characteristics that is necessary for a good career project manager. Further, this person might not have been given the necessary education or know how to manage the projects and would not be fair to blame her/him.

Therefore, the threat in this case is double edge: on the personal aspects, the accidental project manager is likely to feel responsible for the failure and this situation might hurt them professionally and personally. In some cases the consequences could be severe and detrimental to the person’s career. The other aspect for this situation is the organizational aspect. Here we have a failed project with cost and schedule impact – at least. If the project is for a client, the damage could be significant.

In short, all involved lose in this scenario.

The Solution

One solution is to have all project managers educated and trained in project management but we do not believe this is necessary for all type of projects. For major capital investment projects, and projects that are very important for an organization we need the necessary preparation before we should put a project manager in charge.

However, many projects, especially those in our day-to-day life and business, can be managed effectively with accidental project managers with some preparation. But we should not throw the person into the ocean and expect them to reach the shores safely if they do not know how to swim. We need to teach them the necessary to survive, maybe in a large pool and not the ocean; for the ocean we need an expert swimmer.

How can we do that? Have the professional works on projects to see what it is like. Provide some basic project management learning opportunities. Have the person work as an assistant project manager under the supervision of a more experienced professional. All of these actions will enhance the chance of success and minimize the chance of failure. This way, we would have effectively managed the risk of the accidental project manager and the professional gain new skills while the organization enjoys the benefits of a new service or product.

For all professionals out in the world, welcome the opportunity to manage a project and it may change your life. If the organization gives you the task without getting you ready, prepare on your own – seek the new knowledge and best of all learn how to apply it.

We wish you an enjoyable and exciting journey of learning and growth.

By the way, the author started his career as an engineer and then moved to projects.