Management of IT projects: Key lookout areas for the project manager

Tips to address constraints and workarounds that managers must keep in mind when it comes to effective management of IT projects.

For a project manager or CIO, management of IT projects is a multi-layered task that entails seamless integration of domains, people and budgets. It also entails identification of constraints and ways to overcome them. When it comes to management of IT projects, every project manager, especially if he is also the CIO, should be a domain expert. Hence, the first consideration for a project manager would be the various domains that would be a part of the IT project.

To begin with, the primary consideration during management of an IT project is the desktop, i.e., access to the application. The second aspect to look out for is the network, which connects staff to the application. Third comes the server, based on the design and development of the IT project. These would be followed by security, and lastly the administration (with regard to the management of IT projects).

While all domains play a vital role in planning an IT project, not all may be termed important at the same time. That being the scenario, the CIO's job will be to ensure collaboration and effective communication between all domains. Thus the CIO has to play a middle figure between the developer and the IT project's implementer.

Playing the middle figure in the management of IT projects entails clever delegation of work by the CIO, and he has to consider skill as an important factor while completing this task. The skill level will vary depending upon the complexity of the IT project to be managed, and the CIO or project manager needs to identify and understand this.

Another important IT project management task is to identify the jobs that need to be either outsourced or retained for in-house development. A hybrid approach will enable him complete this task. He should begin by considering the complexity and critical value of the application being developed for the IT project. For instance, applications which do not involve matters of confidentiality and security of the company can be outsourced, as also those that can be termed general or mere value-additions when it comes to management of IT projects.

An important area in managing an IT project are maintaining dashboards, planning business continuity and setting priorities.
As important as managing people in the IT project is the task of managing finances. This is because the CIO needs to take care of end-to-end budget requirements, as well as ensure that an IT project is delivered within the budget, without compromising on quality. In-depth planning, analysis of resources and information requirements and knowledge of cost-effective alternatives to implement cut-backs if necessary are some of the key points that he needs to be aware of for proper management of IT projects.

Apart from managing people and budgets effectively for an IT project, the project manager or CIO needs to monitor and control a project with regard to its delivery and adherence to deadlines. For that, he needs to analyze the progress of the IT project practically everyday, study risks, identify tasks that have a probability of going overtime, chart out a delivery path and plan a course of action.

Foreseeing pain areas is also a key focus area for effective management of IT projects. To a certain extent, this ability comes with experience. The project manager needs to know the organization, its culture, and the goals it tries to accomplish. He should also have knowledge of the IT project and its deliverables. In an extreme scenario, if the IT project's objective changes due to these dynamics, it is not feasible for the project manager to redesign the entire IT project. However, he can try and salvage it as much as possible.

Other important areas in managing an IT project are maintaining dashboards, planning business continuity and setting priorities. Dashboards are useful in analyzing the trend and project progress. These are reports that persons involved in various tasks of the IT project need to update regularly. They help in supervising and controlling every minute detail of the IT project, as well as for detecting risks and keeping an eye on possibility of mishaps. 

Planning business continuity comes in when an IT project gets stalled, and needs to be restarted with the same momentum. At such a juncture, time plays a crucial part in deciding the further course of action.

As for setting priorities, the manager of the IT project needs to know that these cannot be set on his or his team's capabilities, but rather on the impetus the business gains from the IT project. All in all, managing any project, be it IT or otherwise, cannot be an exercise in isolation. It needs to ensure seamless integration of all areas and needs to be viewed parallel with the business.

About the author: Sreeram MV is the vice president of IT at Reliance Power Limited. His specializations include strategy, project management, SAP-HR, SAP-FICO, SAP-PM enterprise application integration, and mobile computing.

( As told to Sharon D'Souza.)

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