What Is IT Project Management and How Does It Work?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 23, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective project management is essential for any IT project as it helps teams stay organized and prioritize tasks. Project management can also save money and resources, boost teamwork, and improve time management. Understanding the principles of project management and why it's important can improve the success of any IT project. In this article, we define IT project management, explain why it's important, discuss the project management life cycle, and tell you how to manage projects effectively.

What is IT project management?

IT project management is the process of planning, scheduling, executing, monitoring, and reporting information technology (IT) projects. IT projects are often wide in scope with many deliverables, so a specialized project management process is necessary. Teams typically use project management software specifically for IT projects to ensure it includes the necessary features and tools. Examples of IT projects that may use this management process are software development, network upgrades, or hardware installations.

Related: Understanding Project Management Methodology (With Examples)

Why is project management in IT important?

Project management in any industry is important, but even more so in IT for the following reasons:

  • Creates a focus: IT projects can have a lot of components and project management allows teams to define and clarify them. This can help teams create detailed plans with clear schedules, milestones, and deadlines.

  • Controls quality: As project managers monitor their team in each stage, providing support and resources, teams can maximize quality. This allows teams to create work they're proud of and keeps customers happy.

  • Minimizes risks: At the beginning of the project cycle, teams typically outline any risks they may face throughout the project and brainstorm potential solutions. This awareness can minimize risks and mitigate the impact they have on the project.

  • Reduces costs: Effective management can help teams adhere to deadlines and budgets, saving the company money. Planning ahead and minimizing risks can also help teams save money.

  • Encourages teamwork: Strong communication is essential for successful project management, improving collaboration among team members. This can encourage team members to share their ideas and knowledge openly, helping teams improve their work.

  • Maximizes resources: Thorough planning before a project starts helps teams allocate resources, like time and money, effectively. This maximizes resources and minimizes wastage.

  • Encourages learning: At the end of every project cycle, teams typically meet to discuss what went well and what they could improve next time. This is a great way for teams to learn from their mistakes and improve their knowledge and skills regularly.

Related: Why Project Management Is Important (And Tips for Success)

What is a project management life cycle?

To understand how to manage a project successfully, it's important to understand the project first. Although all projects are unique, they typically follow the same life cycle, which consists of five phases. Here are the phases:

  • Initiation: The first stage requires the project manager or management team to identify a problem, a business need, or an opportunity for improvement. Then, they brainstorm a project that can fit these needs and write the goal and scope of the project.

  • Planning: In the next stage, the project manager establishes the details of the project. This may include the budget, schedule, tasks, and communication plan.

  • Execution: Once the project manager creates a plan, the team executes it in this stage by starting their tasks. The project manager provides the resources the team needs and offers support.

  • Monitoring: This stage occurs throughout the project as the project manager assesses the team's work. They want to ensure their team is meeting deadlines and achieving their goals.

  • Closure: Once all the tasks are complete, the project manager can close the project and submit the final product to management or the company's stakeholders. They may hold an end-of-project meeting to discuss what went wrong or right during the life cycle so the entire team can improve.

Related: The 5 Phases of the Project Management Life Cycle

How to manage an IT project effectively

To manage your next IT project effectively, consider the following steps:

1. Collect requirements

The first step in managing a project is collecting all its requirements. As a project manager, you may meet with other managers or the company's stakeholders to do this. Determine what the client wants to achieve with the project to help you identify and create the project's scope. The project scope is an outline that includes all the details about the project, such as its deliverables, resources, timelines, and goals. It's typically a document that you and your team can refer to throughout the project to ensure you're on track with your tasks and adhering to the client's requirements.

Related: What Is a Project Management Plan? With Tips and Examples

2. Assemble a team

Once you know what the project's requirements are, you can determine which team members are best for the job. Choose team members with unique skills and experience that match the work you're going to be doing. For example, if the project is to install a new computer network for the company, consider including employees who worked on the original network. After choosing a team, meet with them and agree to a method of communication, such as using project management software that allows you to chat, so you can all communicate effectively throughout the project.

3. Create a Gantt chart

After you choose the team members you think are best for the job, you can assign them specific tasks. One of the best ways to do this is using a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a popular project management tool for scheduling and displaying activities. The top of the chart has a timeline, typically of days of the week, and project managers insert activities into the chart according to that timeline. They use different coloured bars to represent each activity or to represent the team member that has to complete the task.

The longer the bar, the more time team members may have to complete the tasks. Every team member has access to the chart to see what they should be working on and assess the progress of their team. There are plenty of benefits to Gantt charts, but the main one is that it helps project managers easily visualize their schedule, allowing them to ensure team members have an equal amount of work to complete within a realistic timeline.

4. Use a Kanban board

Another useful project management tool is a Kanban board. A Kanban board is another way to visualize your tasks, so you can use it instead of a Gantt chart, or in conjunction with one. Kanban boards include the following five components:

  • Visual signals: Visual signals are cards, such as sticky notes or virtual cards, that team members write their tasks on. Teams typically use one card per activity to assess their schedule easily.

  • Columns: Kanban boards typically have three columns that teams can move their cards to: to-do, in progress, or complete. Columns can be more complex than that, but their goal is to help teams track their progress.

  • Work in progress limits: To ensure teams don't have too many tasks so they can easily complete their work before moving on to something else, project managers typically set a work in progress limit. This limits how many cards can be in each column at a time, such as only three cards in the to-do column at once.

  • Commitment point: Also known as a backlog, the commitment point is the place where team members can place new ideas or tasks for the project. When another team member has time, they can pick up a card from the commitment point and start working on it.

  • Delivery point: This is the end of the team's workflow as the product or service is complete and ready for delivery to the client. The main goal for teams using a Kanban board is to move tasks from the commitment point to the delivery point as fast as possible.

Related: Scrum Board vs. Kanban Board: What Are the Pros and Cons?

5. Record and monitor progress

Throughout the project, it's important for you to monitor your team's progress. This allows you to manage their workload effectively. For example, if one team member has more work than another, you can reassign tasks appropriately. Monitoring their progress also helps you ensure they're meeting all the client's requirements, limiting the need for changes at the end of the project.

A great way to monitor progress is to access the reports that most project management software has. Common reports include project status, availability, workload, timesheets, and variance. Analyze these reports to find areas for improvement for the current project or all future ones.

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