Level Up Your IT Project Management Skills With These 10 Tips
No matter what you've studied or how great of an expert you've become, you need to master project management if you want to be a leader. Tech leaders have it tough – they have to use their experience and leadership skills to handle a variety of tasks all at once. They must prioritize and be responsible, making finding a balance extremely challenging.
No one said that it would be easy, but leadership never is. It is a grand achievement to manage and lead others, but before you get into it, you must understand the strengths of yourself and your team and be prepared to do it. Many challenges will come your way, most related to keeping the project on track and keeping it within the set budget.
But, none of this makes it impossible and once you succeed, you'll be considered an excellent expert in the field. With these 10 project management tricks, you can make all leadership efforts run smoothly.
1. One thing at a time
There's no point in rushing things or delegating it all to one person. This is why your team is in place, and it is why they need you to lead them. So, take a step back and consider your strategy before you start leading. It should all go one step at a time.
Before you even begin, make a solid foundation for your project. Create a process that plans who will work on a specific task, which tasks demand team work, and how often you plan to perform testing. Understand the expectations and limitations of the project to determine its scope and length.
Once you identify the project and its details, you can discuss it with the team members and ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible. It's the same as any project done anywhere in the world – to succeed, it needs a detailed plan, focus on details, and a continuous use of big data that tracks its successes.
Handling everything step by step gives you time to focus on the most important things first and not forget anything. This is the tough part and the reason why many leaders make mistakes along the way – rushing into it without considering all the steps and details. The details you need to focus on the plan can include literally anything. It begins with setting the technology needed to get the project done, or hiring an assignment writing service that completes the content after the IT pieces are put together.
2. Learn what your team needs to work
You are the leader of your team. As such, you need to begin implementing your project by sharing it with your team. The job of a great project manager is to delegate tasks, assign and track them throughout the project completion.
But, before you do any of this, you need to discover your team needs or possesses to get things done. You can't just leave it all up to their knowledge or willingness to succeed. To truly motivate your IT team, you need to communicate and learn what they need to finish their tasks.
Consider their strengths and weaknesses. A team member can be an excellent addition to your team, but only if you know what they can do and what they need to do it. If you just toss around tasks expecting everyone to know how to finish them, the results will take much longer time than the desired amount of it.
One requirement most project managers fail to consider is flexibility. Your employees cannot just be led and told what to do. IT specialists are expert in their field, and if you don't give them an in, a chance to be included in the project planning and executing, you can hardly finish it as you want it.
Your best shot when working with experts in your field is to include them. Keep them informed at all times. Lead them toward a final goal, but co-design the project process alongside your team members. This will also go a great way toward building trust and respect in the workplace.
3. Define the milestones
There are four parts of any project, including the ones in the IT industry: initiation, planning, execution, closure.
Start with an evaluation that tracks the progress of each phase of the project execution. Examine the deliverables, track the technical documents, and follow the project plans and specifications.
Plan as you go. Learn to be flexible and anticipate as many problems as you can. Accept that you can't anticipate or fix it all. Find alternatives. Plan together with your team.
Execute the plan based on your knowledge, the knowledge of your team, and the results of the evaluation.
The closure comes when each piece is fully completed and you are sure that there are no errors.
4. Lead them through everything
As a manager of a project, you also take a huge role – one of a leader. This position requires from you to cultivate positive dynamics within the team, as well as mentor and guide the team members. But, it isn't all about the training or the motivating. As a leader, you'll also need to communicate with the team and the stakeholders, agree on the buy-in, track the budget, and handle problems that occur along the way.
Look at it this way – if this IT project is a ship, you are its captain. You choose the crew, train them, guide them, tell them when they are wrong, award or punish them, and inspire them to do better. You must remain calm even in the toughest storms and keep others calm, too. To be an effective captain, you need to delegate and provide support.
If you want to be a great leader, you need to accept that you are the main role in the team, and everyone else's work and actions depend on your choices and guidance.
5. Take risks, but be prepared for them
There will always be risks when you handle a project. Some can be anticipated if you have enough knowledge of the process, research similar IT projects, and have enough experience in the area. But, very often, you won't be able to foresee an imminent risk. Whether you do it or not, you will have to take an action as the team manager, or guide your team members to do so. When project risks occur, it is your job to handle them.
Managing risks means taking full control over the project. That's why a project manager needs to be flexible, prepared, and fast in making decisions.
It also means that you have to take risks to create results. When you research and evaluate the company's steps and delegate based on all the information you've gathered through the previous steps, you can take calculated risks that rule in favor of your team's work.
6. Keep your door open, always
It's not a coincidence that leaders around the world promote the 'open-door' system. It is said to promote communication between leaders and team members, and give your employees a freedom to reach you when they need your help.
In technology, an open door can also be metaphorical. As an IT project manager, you can easily operate the communication system. Make a plan and share it with others. Use apps and programs that enable team conversation, and make sure that all team members can approach you individually if they need so.
A project completion requires continuous communication. Even if the team members don't require it, have meetings where you communicate the plan and results as often as possible.
7. Test the results to improve the strategy
At every milestone, test and evaluate deliverables. Make sure everything your team has achieved meets the requirements of the project. Don't be afraid to make necessary changes but, whenever you do, tweak the following phases so that they fit the project capabilities for budget and time. As your project evolves, you can produce a myriad of deliverables that measure progress, support the project continuation, and validates your plans.
Related article: How to Leverage the Project Management Triangle
8. Choose the priorities
Every project has priorities and following those makes the difference between failure and success. Don't try to battle against the resource and time constraints. Your job as a manager is to determine which task is a priority, and which can be tackled later.
The job of the team members is to do their assignments, but the job of the leader is to help make this happen. If you don't organize and prioritize before you start leading, your leading could bring chaos in the organization.
You might be able to manage large chunks of a project at the same time, but managing more projects is a whole new thing. Focus on a specific project at hand. Split it into milestones and small chunks and work alongside your team to complete it. If you focus on more projects, you can easily lose focus.
9. Use technology in your favor
As an IT leader, you have the biggest advantage of them all – technology. Use it to learn new tricks and techniques, share tools and apps that help the work of the team members, track their work and success, and use data to improve the business' strategy. Technology is your biggest weapon against the competition. Many leaders are knowledgeable in the field, but IT experts have the higher hand in this. With your knowledge and the consistent technology advancements, you can make your leadership easier and more effective on continuous basis.
10. Train your team
Thankfully, there are many time-tracking tools you can use to see how your team is progressing. In the project management processes, track how much time your team spends on tasks, how fast they progress, and whether they can do their tasks or not. If necessary, make changes. Train them further.
Training is an essential tool in every organization that wants to succeed. If you want to move forward, you need train your employees and help build on their skills. This is their best way to strive in the workplace, and it is great for you as a leader, too.
This is a guest post by Scott Mathews. Scott is a professional content writer in such topics as SMM, SEO and IT. Scott`s the biggest passion is blogging and travelling. He regularly takes part in different career growth conferences and contributes his posts to different websites. Contact him on Facebook and Twitter.